The president has proposed that the big wall at the southern border should be funded by imposing a 20 percent tariff on all imports from Mexico.
Let's think about that a bit.
I totally agree with the overtone of the president's proposal — let's get someone other than American citizens to help fund the wall (and other migration enforcement activities). To some extent a tariff would do that, but it would lead to higher prices to Americans for products made in Mexico.
But the significant by-product of such a policy would be a less prosperous Mexico — and when that happens illegal immigration increases.
Is there a way to raise money for the wall in such a way that it does not increase migration pressures from the south? Is there a way to raise money that will not only not depress the Mexican economy, but will encourage illegal aliens now in the United States to return to their homelands, without the bother and expense of deportation?
Yes, there is. Unfortunately the collection of techniques I have in mind does not fit neatly into a headline, but they would erect the wall and encourage voluntary departures.
This series of measures would terminate current (sometimes unwitting) programs that pay federal funds to illegal aliens, moneys that would better be used on migration enforcement. None of these reforms would fund the wall individually, but the collection of them — most worth $1-3 billion a year each — would do the job nicely.
The trouble with these proposals is that they are scattered through different government departments, many of them are both complex and obscure, and all call for a nuanced approach to the business of governing. The glory of them is that all raise money for enforcement from the people — illegal aliens — who have been benefitting from our lax migration policies in recent years.
Here's a listing of some of these illegals-pay-for-the-wall ideas, with references to more detailed discussions of these ideas.
- Put a 2 percent fee on all outgoing remittances; the rate is low enough to discourage alternative ways of sending money to the homelands, and the paper created will give IRS good leads for collecting unpaid income taxes. (See here and here.)
- Demand a genuine Social Security number tied to the beneficiary before any income tax refunds are made.
- Terminate the current practice of allowing Additional Child Tax Credit benefits to go to children (often of illegals) who lack Social Security numbers.
- Eliminate the current and hard-to-believe food stamps ruling that lets some families with illegal alien wage earners get benefits when all-citizen families of the same size and at the same income are denied benefits.
In addition, and this would cover all the people involved, including legal residents of this country and legal residents of Mexico, start collecting a small cover charge for those crossing into the United States; 25 cents for a pedestrian, $1 for a car, and $5 for a bus.
None of these proposals would depress the Mexican economy, all would help fund the wall, and most would have absolutely no impact on the vast majority of American taxpayers, and all (but the crossing fees) would encourage illegal aliens to return home.