According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, legal and illegal immigrants are extracting an absolute fortune from the U.S. economy and sending it back home to their foreign relatives. The report showed that immigrants sent back nearly $140 billion in 2016 alone, blowing a wall-sized hole in America’s domestic spending economy.
And for anyone who would like to argue that American ex-pats also send their foreign wages back to the country, Pew Research addresses that topic as well. Guess how much Americans sent back to America in 2016? A cool $6.5 billion. We’re not great at math, but we don’t think that’s going to quite cover the shortfall…
Immigration activists claim that while these numbers may hit the average American like a splash of freezing cold water, there is no cause for alarm. They argue that these remittances actually help the U.S. in a roundabout kind of way by providing foreigners with the money they need to purchase goods – many of which are manufactured in the U.S. and exported to Mexico, India, and China. Furthermore, they argue that if the federal government were to confiscate the money or shut off the pipeline, it could lead to the sort of economic crisis that would only lead more people to try to cross the border from the south. Better to just keep the money flowing, they say. Mexico’s economic prosperity and stability is good for the U.S.
We’re not saying that these arguments are laughable, exactly; they have their merits. But then again, no one’s seriously talking about shutting down remittances altogether. We’re talking about what Trump’s been talking about since he hit the campaign trail: Evening out the playing field and making things more fair. That goes to trade imbalances as well as remittance payments. And when you have a country like Mexico getting $20 billion in remittances every year (in addition to its trade surplus with the U.S.) and still refusing to pay a dime for the wall…well, that’s a problem. That’s a big problem.
Another problem? By sending much of their income back to their families, immigrants are unable to support themselves. Eventually, we’re in a situation where we’re supporting these immigrants with public welfare while they send their paychecks home to mama. Or, to put it more simply, the American taxpayer is essentially paying Mexicans to live. How the hell does that make any sense?
Republicans are reluctant to go in and monkey around with this stuff for a variety of reasons – some of them nefarious and selfish, some of them understandable and prudent. But it’s time for us to seriously think about the leaks in the boat caused by legal and illegal immigration alike. We may even want to plug a few of them.