President Obama called Donald Trump’s plan to pay for a border wall, which involves seizing remittances going to Mexico, “half-baked.”
In a memo, Trump’s campaign said a law targeting terrorism funding would be used to stop “illegal wages” earned by illegal immigrants from being sent back to their families south of the border — unless Mexico ponies up between $5 billion and $10 billion in a lump-sum payment for construction of a border wall.
The campaign said the remittances are “de facto welfare for poor families in Mexico.” The World Bank said $24 billion in remittances were sent from the U.S. to Mexico in 2014, a stat cited by the Trump camp even though the World Bank statistics don’t break down how many of those sending money are in the country legally or illegally.
Obama appeared at the top of the daily briefing to talk about corporate tax inversions and received a question at the end that began: “Mr. President, the Republican frontrunner today outlined his plan to –”
“Oh no,” Obama interjected, provoking laughter.
The president noted that he’s been “very clear” about “getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made.”
“I do have to emphasize that it’s not just Mr. Trump’s proposals. You’re also hearing concerns about Mr. Cruz’s proposals, which in some ways are just as draconian when it comes to immigration, for example,” he said.
“The implications with respect to ending remittances — many of which, by the way, are from legal immigrants and from individuals who are sending money back to their families — are enormous. First of all, they’re impractical. We just talked about the difficulties of trying to enforce huge outflows of capital. The notion that we’re going to track every Western Union bit of money that’s being sent to Mexico, good luck with that.”
Obama said there’s then “the issue of the implications for the Mexican economy, which in turn, if it’s collapsing, actually sends more immigrants north because they can’t find jobs back in Mexico.”
“But this is just one more example of something that is not thought through and is primarily put forward for political consumption,” he added.
“And as I’ve tried to emphasize throughout, we’ve got serious problems here. We’ve got big issues around the world. People expect the president of the United States and the elected officials in this country to treat these problems seriously, to put forward policies that have been examined, analyzed, are effective, where unintended consequences are taken into account. They don’t expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House. We can’t afford that.”