On Tuesday, 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump proposed a plan for forcing Mexico to pay for a wall along the American border: shutting down remittances.
This is the first semi-useful thing Trump has said in weeks.
Trump originally gained support because of his harsh stance on illegal immigration. His pledge to build a wall with Mexico and force the Mexican government to pay for it raised eyebrows, but Trump followed up with a series of measures – some decent, some not – designed to implement that plan. On Tuesday, Trump clarified his plan. According to a campaign memo, Trump would propose a rule mandating that wiring companies require customers to prove legal residence in order to send money. “It’s an easy decision for Mexico,” said Trump’s campaign. Remittances serve “as de facto welfare for poor families in Mexico. There is no significant social safety net provided by the state in Mexico.”
This idea is actually decent. If you wish to halt illegal immigration, preventing those who come illegally from sending money back home accomplishes this purpose. If you wish to pressure the Mexican government, preventing people from sending money back to Mexico accomplishes this purpose.
Naturally, President Obama hates this plan. “The notion that we’re going to track every Western Union bit of money that’s being sent to Mexico, you know, good luck with that,” said Obama, a man who has suggested that the federal government police every American for failure to buy sufficient health insurance.
Obama also suggested that if Mexico’s economy buckled thanks to lack of remittances, illegal immigration would increase. That would be true, of course, unless the federal government – presumably a Trump-run government in this world – jacked up law enforcement, or unless the Mexican government caved.
President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto said that he would not comment about the topic, writing it off as campaign rhetoric.
While some commentators deride Trump’s plan as unrealistic, it’s actually not too far out there. The United States government has already cut remittances to countries like Somalia. This would be a far larger, more intrusive version, but the principle is the same. Jim Geraghty at National Review suggested a year ago that taxation on remittances would be as effective.
All of which should remind us: if Trump had any discipline, any centralizing conservative principle, and an ounce of self-control, he’d be far more palatable. It’s not that Trump can’t occasionally put forth a quasi-coherent policy proposal. He can. It’s that he only does so as a last resort, after spending weeks feeding the narcissistic cancer that drives his campaign. It’s that Trump isn’t conservative, and only talks about conservative issues when forced to do so.