A group of House Republicans on Thursday introduced the first major bill to fund President Trump’s border wall, saying the government could collect billions of dollars by imposing a 2 percent fee on all the money Mexicans and other immigrants send back home.
Estimates vary, but remittances from those in the U.S. to their relatives back home could top $130 billion a year. A 2 percent tax could net more than $2 billion a year if it applied to all money regardless of who’s sending it.
“This bill is simple — anyone who sends their money to countries that benefit from our porous borders and illegal immigration should be responsible for providing some of the funds needed to complete the wall,” Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican, said in a statement. “This bill keeps money in the American economy, and most importantly, it creates a funding stream to build the wall.”
Mr. Rogers and Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania are leading the effort.
Mr. Trump has vowed to make Mexico foot the bill for his border wall, but Mexican authorities have said they won’t play along.
Left without a funding source, the president has said American taxpayers will pick up the tab for now, and he’ll look for ways to soak Mexico in the long run.
The World Bank puts remittances from the U.S. at more than $50 billion a year. A Pew Research Center analysis puts the figure at $133 billion in 2015.
Mexico is one of the biggest beneficiaries, with $24 billion alone going from the U.S. to its southern neighbor in 2015, making it one of Mexico’s top sources of income. China and India rounded out the top three countries.
Remittances also account for a huge percentage of the economies of Central American countries.
The U.S. has one of the lowest costs to send money home, at about 6 percent of the payment. Canada’s rate is twice that, while the world’s other big economies hover around 8 percent.
Mr. Trump during the campaign hinted at remittances as one option for footing the bill for his border wall.
But his plan was convoluted, calling for rewriting regulations governing wire transfers and then using it as a threat to force Mexico to cut a check.
Mr. Trump also threatened to cancel visas, hike fees on visas issued to Mexicans or impose a tariff on Mexican goods imported into the U.S. as ways to force Mexico to play ball.
The new congressional bill is much less complicated and would collect funds not just from Mexicans.
It’s already been tried by Oklahoma, which imposes a 1 percent fee on all person-to-person money wire transfers that go outside the state.
Remittances are also a source of money that doesn’t offer much chance for retribution against Americans. Pew said that while $133 billion was shipped abroad in 2015, Americans sent only $7 billion back to the U.S. in remittances that year.