A Mexico-US Wall Is Not The Answer

Posted on April 14, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Unless You Like Answers That Fail

Donald Trump, one of the Republican candidates for President of the United States of America, recently offered the details of his plan for how a 1,000 mile wall separating Mexico and the United States would benefit America and would be paid for by Mexico. 

In a memo released on Tuesday, the week before last, Mr. Trump stated that illegal immigration remains one of the fundamental obstacles to American safety and economic wellbeing and that, therefore, the Mexican government would have to make a one-time payment of about $10 billion to build the wall. Even assuming this policy was possible for the next President to pursue--and there are serious logistical, legal, and policy problems with it--the negative economic and social implications would be felt as much in the United States as in Mexico.

C. Mario Russell is Catholic Charities Senior Attorney and Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services.  He also teaches immigration law at St. John’s University School of Law and is a regular contributor on immigration news for “El Diario” newspaper.

Mr. Trump’s idea is that unless the Mexican government pays the bill to build the wall, he would cut off the $24.4 billion in remittances –money transferred by wire – that the 12 million Mexican immigrants in the United States send back to family and friends in Mexico each year.  Mr. Trump’s plan would also bar non-Americans from wiring money outside the U.S. unless they can provide documentation establishing their legal status in the country.  These ideas would require changing a rule under the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law, that no President has the power to do on his own. So it’s not clear how this would get done.

But even assuming Mr. Trump could get his way, withholding this money would be bad for both the United States and Mexico, who have been longstanding, good neighbors. First, it may actually encourage irregular immigration to the United States as families and beneficiaries of remittances in Mexico would have greater difficulty in sustaining their homes and providing for themselves. Consider, after all, that the remittances are about 2-percent of the yearly Mexican gross domestic product.  Second, it could reduce incentives for the most talented immigrants to come to the United States since they would lose the opportunity to provide for their loved ones back home. But, also, the United States is a country of immigrants with an aging population that needs young workers. Much evidence shows that immigration has essentially no negative impact on wages, while immigrants perform work others won't do and help increase productivity, fuel innovation and add to the number of small businesses.

Whatever might be the immediate political benefits of announcing a policy of this kind, its long-term implications are both unrealistic and questionable. More important, it will bring unnecessary harm to our Southern neighbors and to the people and families that have become a part of our communities on whom we depend mutually for a better and more prosperous future.

Read about how A Mexico-US Wall Is Not The Answer in Spanish in El Diario.

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