Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to probe how many illegal aliens versus legal immigrants send money home to their foreign countries, and how much.
The process, called “remittances,” makes up substantial portions of the gross domestic product (GDP) of foreign nations to which money who receive money from their foreign nationals working in America. Very little is known about the breakdown of illegal aliens sending money home versus legal immigrants. Vitter has a bill called the WIRE Act which would charge a fee to any immigrant who can’t document they’re in the U.S. legally when they’re seeking to wire money home–a fee that would be used to fund border security.
“We have a lot of folks in the United States from other countries–many of them are here legally, many of them are not, they are here illegally–who go to different storefronts and financial institutions to wire money back to their relatives back home,” Vitter said in a phone interview with Breitbart News last week. “That’s not a horrible practice per se, but clearly some of the folks doing this are here illegally. I have legislation proposed, the WIRE Act, that would simply ask the businesses doing the wiring to require documentation of a person’s legal status. If they’re here legally, great. But if they can’t document that they’re here legally, we’d charge a significant fee and that goes to border security and enforcement. I’ve asked the GAO for some data about numbers of people and remittances to help push my WIRE Act.”
Back in 2011, the Congressional Budget Office determined that $38 billion was sent to foreign countries–mostly in Latin America, but substantially to Africa and Asia as well–by immigrants, both legal and illegal. A 2006 report from GAO found that the United States was the largest remittance-sending nation in the world. And in 2010, the anti-amnesty Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) found that $25 billion of remittances sent out of the U.S. were from illegal aliens.
That’s about everything that’s known about remittance statistics on a macro-economic scale, and Vitter thinks it’s time for lawmakers to have concrete facts about the matter so they can make a decision about to how to handle the process–especially when it comes to illegal aliens involved in it.
“This is designed to get a much better update on those figures,” Vitter said of his request of GAO. “We’d like to know: What is the total amount of remittances? What is a guestimate of how many of those folks sending remittances are here legally versus here illegally? It would help determine how much revenue would be raised by my proposed WIRE Act by assessing this fee against the illegals. So how much money could we raise for border security?”
Vitter asked the GAO to determine how much could be raised in fees from illegal aliens engaged in remittance-sending, fees that would go to funding border security, and what other costs would be incurred by U.S. financial institutions to implement the process of having to check IDs of customers. He also asked GAO to determine whether there’s a way to track where the money goes when it leaves the U.S., and if it’s involved in “money laundering risk” and what the current regulations and controls are on that sector of the financial world.
“It could be–who knows?” Vitter responded when asked by Breitbart News if the money being wired back home could be getting funneled into criminal organizations that have received much attention as of late for their role in trafficking people into the United States. “I would guess, though, that the vast majority of it is going to support family members. But yeah, we don’t know exactly where it’s going, so certainly some portion of it could go to some version of those sources you’re talking about.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently stated on a local Floridian talk radio network that 13 percent of the GDP of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador–three of the major Central American nations from which many of the illegal aliens comprising the current border crisis came–is made up by remittances from its immigrants in the United States, legal or illegal. That money, Vitter said in his interview with Breitbart News, could be staying inside the United States to help build jobs and the economy as a whole here, but because of the policies of this administration, the money is entering a global economy that brings American citizens down.
“This shows a big impact on American workers,” Vitter said. “We also always have people say that this enforcement costs lots of money. This is a way to raise funds from people who are clearly part of the problem if they’re here illegally and use that money in a targeted way on the enforcement that we need.”
During his interview, Vitter also focused on the border crisis and the many legislative proposals circulating through Washington at this time.
“Fixing the 2008 law is important and it’s necessary to get to the right place, but it’s not adequate even of just of itself,” Vitter said of the anti-human trafficking law that may lawmakers are fixated on. “We need to be doing other things: We need to prevent the president from doing these administrative amnesties to make sure that all illegals in this situation are detained and not released into society under the care of a family member, many of whom are also here illegally. There are a handful of significant things we need to do together–that includes fixing the 2008 law, but it’s a somewhat longer list than that.”
Vitter, a cosponsor of the bill authored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would block President Obama from expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty via executive order, said that Cruz’s bill is worth pursuing.
“We can pass legislation barring specifically some of the actions he’s taken like the amnesty for minors and that’s what Ted Cruz is trying to do,” Vitter said. “I think the three biggest things we have to do are that, block his executive action that grants big amnesties like that, number two fix the 2008 law and number three stop catch and release–stop any activity of Homeland Security where they actually release illegal aliens into society with a family member or somebody else because the great majority of them never come to court again when they’re supposed to.”
Vitter added that Democrats are trying to frame this battle as a “humanitarian crisis” for a number of reasons that are politically motivated, but that it’s the president’s policies that perpetuate the crisis.
“It is a ‘humanitarian crisis’–it’s a crisis on a lot of levels, including on a humanitarian level,” Vitter said. “But right now we have a policy that’s encouraging that humanitarian crisis to grow. Any policy like that is not humanitarian. These minors are being put in the hands of dangerous criminal gangs and we have a policy that’s not stopping that, not slowing that down. It’s encouraging more of that and it’s putting more minors in danger. So ultimately, we need a truly humanitarian policy that stops that activity and discourages in a strong way more minors from being put in the hands of dangerous criminal gangs.”
In the long term, if this cycle isn’t stopped and reversed, Vitter said America cannot continue to survive on this path.
“We can’t sustain this as a country,” Vitter said. “These growing waves of illegals have huge effects on America. It’s a national security issue; it’s a border security issue. It’s also an economic issue. We have a very mediocre economy. Folks are struggling to find good jobs and this is clearly going to depress wages and depress job opportunities for Americans. It’s also a big, big drain on our government and public resources whether it’s the immediate border crisis–I mean, President Obama’s asking for $3.7 billion–or long term drains on social services like hospitals and education.”