Former president Donald Trump has been hit hard by his own party for failing to live up to his most infamous promise.
Trump promised in 2016 — to cheers from his most xenophobic supporters and jeers from everyone who has any concept of how things work — that he would build a wall separating the United States from Mexico, and force Mexico to pay for it.
Now his primary opponent is co-opting that platform plank.
Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida and Trump’s nearest (though still distant) competitor in the Republican primary, is now jumping on the wall train. He says that he will fulfill Trump’s abandoned promise, by finishing the wall and making Mexico pay for it.
Trump has been dinged by those supporters who genuinely believed that he was going to use a physical barrier to prevent immigration into a country accessible by both sea and sky and who have been disappointed that in fact, by the end of the Trump Administration, only a few hundred miles of border barrier had been built. Much of that was already walled off before Trump was elected.
As for completing the wall, DeSantis — in the hypothetical case he was elected and actually attempted to keep his promise — would face many of the same hurdles the Trump Administration did.
These include property ownership and environmental issues, and the overall impossibility of both forcing Mexico to fork over the funds and actually completing a near 2,000-mile wall that most of the country doesn’t want.
DeSantis, however, has already taken some rather extreme anti-immigrant actions as Florida Governor.
There’s already the potential for criminal charges against him for allegedly scooping up (legal, documented) immigrants and transporting them to dump in liberal areas while lying to them about where they were going and what would await them — so perhaps he’d be even less hampered by legalities than Trump was.
As for making Mexico pay for it, he proposes that he’d impose a fee on immigrants who work in the U.S. and send money back to their families still in Mexico. He said (clip below):
“It’s imposing a fee on the remittances that people who come here, who are not U.S. citizens, a lot of them working illegally. When they send money back, you impose that fee, you use that and you get billions of dollars from that, and be able to build a border wall.”
DeSantis’ xenophobic rhetoric ignores that many people who work in the U.S. and have families in Mexico to whom they send money are legal immigrants or U.S. citizens, but aside from that, his math is questionable.
How much money are undocumented immigrants sending to Mexico? New American Economy reported:
“In 2019 alone, Mexican undocumented households earned almost $92 billion in household income and contributed $9.8 billion in federal, state, and local taxes, even assuming conservative estimates that only half of all undocumented households filed taxes.”
By those numbers, even a 3% tax on every dime undocumented workers earn — not just the money they send to Mexico — would barely clear “billions.”
Still, the implication that Hispanic people are sending heaps of money they earn in U.S. jobs out of the country is sure to get a certain subset of conservatives foaming at the mouth — and that’s proven to win Republican votes.
Watch DeSantis lay out his proposal below.
I will fulfill the promise that Donald Trump made in 2016 to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it.
Here is how I will do it: pic.twitter.com/fXBS0TcV1e
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantis) October 4, 2023
Steph Bazzle covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph.