WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump would force Mexico to pay for a border wall by threatening to cut off billions of dollars in remittances sent by immigrants living in the U.S., according to a memo released by his campaign Tuesday.
The memo outlines how Trump would try to compel Mexico to pay for a 1,000-mile wall if he becomes president.
In his proposal, Trump threatened to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law, to cut off funds sent to Mexico through money transfers known as remittances. Trump said he would withdraw the threat if Mexico makes "a one-time payment of $5-10 billion" to finance the wall."
The U.S. is home to about 12 million Mexicans, some living here illegally, according to various research organizations that monitor trends in immigration. They and other migrants use money transfer agents or banks to send money home, often with the objective of supporting their families.
The Mexican central bank reported that money sent home by Mexicans overseas hit nearly $24.8 billion last year, overtaking oil revenues for the first time as a source of foreign income. Cutting off those transfers would therefore represent a significant blow to the Mexican economy. Trump's campaign says that money "provides substantial leverage for the United States to obtain from Mexico the funds necessary to pay for a border wall."
"We have the moral high ground here, and all the leverage," the memo reads. "It is time we use it in order to Make America Great Again."
The release of the memo was first reported by the Washington Post early Tuesday.
This is not the first time that Trump has spelled out options for pressuring Mexico into paying for his signature policy proposal.
In an immigration overhaul plan released in August, Trump's campaign suggested a number of options for compelling Mexico to pay for the wall. Those included impounding "all remittance payments derived from illegal wages," increasing fees on temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats -- "and if necessary cancel them" -- increasing fees on border crossing cards, increasing fees on NAFTA worker visas from Mexico, and increasing fees at ports of entry between the two countries.
"Tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options," the immigration paper stated.
The billionaire businessman has estimated his proposed wall would cost between $10 billion and $12 billion, and has argued that it would protect the country from illegal border crossings as well as halting drug shipments.
Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto has said his country will not pay for any such wall. In an interview with the Excelsior newspaper last month, Pena Nieto compared Trump's rhetoric to that of dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, saying that language like his has led to "very fateful scenes in the history of humanity."