The federal government just admitted it has no idea how much money illegal aliens in the U.S. are sending overseas.
In response to a FOIA request from the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a subdivision of the Department of Commerce, stated it does not estimate the amount of foreign cash transfers illegal aliens send outside the U.S.
The BEA also confirmed that it does not even question overseas transfers, known as remittances, nor does it have any ability to do so, which entails that informal Islamic financial transfer systems like hawala, often used to fund terrorism terrorism-financing systems, also escape the BEA’s estimations. A lack of scrutiny in this area means it’s likely that tens of millions of dollars are being sent overseas for nefarious activities.
As one example, a report from the Congressional Research Service in May noted that the Somali-American community in Minnesota sends about $100 million back to Somalia annually, but in the past few years, many financial institutions have cut off this link to Somalia for fear of funds falling in the hands of al-Qaida affiliate Al-Shabaab.
While the BEA broadly estimates “foreign-born” transfers, it does not divide the total figure into separate categories for legal and illegal migrants, which would be a useful number in assessing what illegals actually contribute to the American economy.
A Government Accountability Office report found that foreign-born residents sent $54.2 billion dollars abroad in 2014. Most of the remittances went to Mexico, China and India, among others. Of that $54.2 billion, $25 billion went to Mexico, which now counts remittances as a larger source of foreign income than oil.
In 2007, the BEA estimated foreign-born transfers at $36 billion.
Without any policing of cash transfers abroad, there’s a clear incentive for illegals to cross the border in search of work, as average wages in America are considerably higher than they are in Mexico. In Mexico, average wages are just one-tenth of what they are in America. Immigration expert John Eastman has called higher wages “one of the three magnets of illegal immigration.”
Remittances have recently appeared in the public eye following presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s announcement that he plans in part to fund the border wall by attaching fees to overseas money transfers. Mexico’s Deputy Secretary for Finance Fernando Aportela has said in response if the U.S. decides to block remittances, money laundering prevention between the two countries would be on the ropes.
David North, fellow of the Center for Immigration Studies, isn’t even sure that sorting out legal from illegal remittances is worth it, but he does have an alternative approach.
“Sorting out illegal remittances from legal ones would require lots and lots of effort, and I am not sure it would be worth it,” North told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Do we train all those bank clerks to know who is an illegal and who is not?”
“What we as a nation should do, as Oklahoma has done at the state level is to put a 1% fee on the transfers, and then regard these as income tax withholdings, so if you are dealing fairly with the income tax system it does not cost the sender anything,” he said.
North noted that Oklahoma brings in between $10 and $11 million annually from this fee, and in other states, the revenue would be much higher, as Oklahoma isn’t known for being home to a large population of illegals.
An analysis by North found the U.S. could raise $1-2 billion every year by following Oklahoma’s approach.
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