Dear Mexico: you might wind up paying for that wall after all


Over the weekend the former president of Mexico took a rather scoffing tone when he said that Mexico wasn’t going to pay one cent for Donald Trump’s “stupid wall.” This is a knock we’ve heard from plenty of The Donald’s critics back here at home as well, coming from Democrats and Republicans alike. I mean… it’s crazy, right? How could anyone expect that to happen?

There’s an article this week over at The Last Refuge which might be worth a look if you’ve got an open mind on the subject. One of the less commented on aspects of international relations with Mexico is the volume of cash which Mexicans living in America (including illegal aliens) send home every year to their families. There’s nothing shocking about the idea at first glance. People send money home all the time. But just how much is it? This report straight out of Mexico may come as a bit of a shock.

Remittances sent home by Mexicans working outside the country surpassed petroleum revenues in 2015 for the first time. There was a 4.75% increase in money sent from abroad, most of which comes from the U.S., to total US $24.8 billion last year, up from $23.6 billion in 2014, said the Bank of México.

The bank said it was the first time remittances had totaled more than petroleum revenues since it began tracking them in 1995. Oil revenues last year totaled $23.4 billion.

This is apparently the reality of the Mexican economy. They have more cash flowing into the country via letters and wire service from people working in the United States than they get from exporting oil. And it’s not peanuts. As the author notes, this offers an opportunity for the next President to apply leverage if they have the will to do so.

Yes, you read that correctly. Immigrant remittances received by Mexico have surpassed Mexico’s $23.4 billion in oil earnings. This means the government of Mexico is more dependent than ever on the earnings of maids and gardeners in the U.S. to keep itself afloat. This is the leverage Donald Trump talks about to pressure Mexico to pay for the border wall.

Trump’s proposal carries: the border wall solution, the employment solution, the enforcement mechanisms of current law, and another angle that is strategically essential. “WESTERN UNION REMITTANCES” (Money Services Compliance)

Is it possible? Absolutely, assuming you can mount the pressure required to make it happen. It would be complicated and politically messy, but such things don’t seem to bother Trump much to begin with. It all comes down to the idea of directing law enforcement to direct resources and vigorous attention to impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages. And once the word is out on the street that such payments are being looked at closely, both through electronic transactions and the purchase of money orders from banks and post offices, the flow might not be stopped but it would be severely reduced.

There’s an obvious downside to such a deal which can’t be ignored. Making a deal with Mexico to not do that if they agree to certain terms and conditions (such as working on wall construction) carries with it an admission that we’re not going to enforce the law or pay attention to illegals currently in the country. But as I said… this is a complicated puzzle to solve. If the effort to monitor and seize remittances in this fashion is beyond the scope of available resources then it’s not going to get done anyway. And if the result is a wall, well… perhaps you come up with a net win out of the deal.