Mexico City – Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s calls to impound the money undocumented workers send home and to jack up fees for Mexicans crossing the border legally each day could prove harmful to the economies of both countries, Mexican experts said Monday.
Even proponents of Trump’s immigration stance said some aspects of his platform are impractical or cannot be implemented in their entirety.
Trump, whose surge in U.S. polls has troubled many Mexicans, issued a policy paper Sunday that called for blocking the money undocumented Mexican workers send home to their families and increasing fees at border crossing points and for border crossing cards that 1 million Mexicans use. The measure would stay in place a permanent border wall can be built.
“We will not be taken advantage of anymore,” the Trump policy paper said.
Former Mexican ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan said Trump’s policies would be “an unmitigated disaster” for U.S.-Mexican relations, would violate banking regulations and would ignore a changing panorama in which Chinese and Indian migrants stay illegally in the United States more frequently than Mexicans.
“This would be ‘lose-lose’ for both countries,” Sarukhan said of Trump’s proposed policies.
José Alberto Moreno Chávez, a historian and migration expert at the National School of Anthropology and History, echoed the criticism.
“It would have catastrophic consequences both for Mexico and the United States,” Moreno Chavez said.
The economies of the two countries are deeply intertwined. Bilateral trade topped $534 billion in 2014, and Mexico is the second largest export market for U.S. goods after Canada. As may as seven million U.S. jobs rely on trade with Mexico, and 26 U.S. states list Mexico as their leading trade partner.
People residing in the United States of Mexican heritage, both legally and without documentation, send huge flows of money to their relatives each year, providing a lifeline to families. For the 12-month period ending in June, remittances to Mexico totaled $24.1 billion.
Andrés Rozental, a former deputy foreign minister of Mexico, said proponents of a crackdown on undocumented workers in the United States have repeatedly gone to court to seize or tax some of the remittance flows.
“The decision has always been that these are the product of labor and they are guaranteed by U.S. law,” Rozental said.
Impounding remittances as Trump calls for “is not going to happen,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group that seeks to lower immigration rates.
But Krikorian said, “there is a germ of an idea there.”
He suggested that states could follow Oklahoma’s example of charging a 1 percent fee on wire transfers which could be credited against state income taxes, when and if a worker files.
“If you are an illegal alien and you don’t file taxes, you don’t get that money back,” he said.
Krikorian said seeking to tap some of the remittance flow would largely affect “people who don’t vote.”
“It seems to me a pretty obvious step that would have very little consequences and very little blowback,” Krikorian said.
Raising fees on Mexicans who cross the border to do business could have a greater impact – and affect Americans who do vote.
About a million people cross the southwest U.S. border in either direction on any given day. Many are small-time traders.
“If a fee were put on of, say, $50 a Mexican, many stores along the border would collapse,” said Moreno, the expert from the National School of Anthropology and History.
Trump made headlines in June when he announced that he was running for the presidency and declared that many Mexicans crossing the border were “rapists” and criminals.
The remark cost Trump various business deals, including one with Univision, the largest U.S. Spanish-language network, to air the Miss Universe pageant, of which Trump is part owner.
But it also sent Trump’s popularity rising among U.S. voters who agree with his posture that immigrants are taking U.S. jobs, burdening taxpayers with welfare and health care costs and committing crimes at a disproportionate rate.
In his policy platform, Trump said, “All criminal aliens must be returned to their home countries.”
He said Mexico has taken the United States “to the cleaners” with bad trade deals and by exporting “crime and poverty” across the northern border. As president, he said, his government would force Mexico to pay for a high wall along the 1,950-mile border.
“The cost of building a permanent border wall pales mightily in comparison to what American taxpayers spend every single year on dealing with the fallout of illegal immigration on their communities, schools and unemployment offices,” Trump’s platform said.
In other media appearances, Trump has said he would overturn President Barack Obama’s controversial executive orders that aim to protect as many as five million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant group, called Trump’s positions “as dangerous as they are stunning.”
“Donald Trump can bloviate about mass deportation, promise to build a 14th century wall, and pander to the nativist dead-enders within the GOP, but the American people are way ahead of him,” Sharry said in a statement.
“They don’t want a police state with deportation trains, weeping families and a hollowed out economy,” Sharry added.
Sarukhan, the former Mexican ambassador, said Trump is offering voters “red meat and bombast” by blaming Mexicans when in reality an improvement in the Mexican economy has caused the flows of immigrants to fall dramatically to the point that there is zero net migration.