Much of $33 billion immigrants sent south was expedited by U.S. government program

by WorldTribune Staff, April 11, 2019

In 2018, Mexican immigrants in the U.S. sent a record $33.48 billion in remittances to their homeland. Much of that cash flow, which could have funded the border wall, was enabled by a program operated by the U.S. Federal Reserve, a government watchdog group reported.

The program – named  “Directo a Mexico” – sends marketing materials to immigrant workers in the U.S. – regardless of their legal status, Judicial Watch noted in an April 9 report. It also sends the materials to banks, credit unions and other financial institutions. The program is promoted as “the best way to send money home,” offering “more pesos for every dollar.”

During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump proposed a plan to get Mexico to fund a border wall by cutting off remittance payments from Mexican migrants in the U.S.

According to his plan, the U.S. Patriot Act would be amended to block wire transfers from Mexican nationals using companies such as Western Union. But the Federal Reserve’s special program is not mentioned in the plan.

American financial institutions are charged $0.67 per item to transfer money from the United States to Mexican banks, ensuring a “highly competitive rate.”

The Federal Reserve also provides participating U.S. financial institutions with Spanish language promotional materials to “help get your message out.” The marketing materials also include the number of Mexican migrants in the U.S. with no distinction between those here illegally or not. A separate list identifies thousands of Mexican banks receiving “Directo a Mexico” transfers, the Judicial Watch report said.

“This means that, amid an onslaught of illegal immigration, the U.S. government is largely responsible for the billions in remittances flowing south of the border from illegal aliens,” Judicial Watch said.

Mexico’s central bank reported that 104 million transactions were executed in 2018, nearly six million more than the previous year.

The program was launched by President George W. Bush, who “came up with the idea following the 2001 U.S.-Mexico Partnership for Prosperity to provide low-cost banking services to illegal immigrants and facilitate the procedure for those sending money home,” Judicial Watch noted.

In its first year, 2005, remittances to Mexico topped $20 billion and the Federal Reserve reports “double-digit percentage growth for the past several years.” Remittances are transferred through the Federal Reserve’s own automated clearinghouse linked directly to Mexico’s central bank (Banco de Mexico).

When the program was created Federal Reserve officials acknowledged that most of the Mexican nationals who send money back home are illegal immigrants so a Mexican-issued identification is the only requirement to use the government banking service, the Judicial Watch report said.

A colorful brochure promoting “Directo a Mexico” offered to help immigrants who don’t have bank accounts and assured the best foreign exchange rate and low transfer fees. A frequently asked question section posed this: “If I return to Mexico or am deported, will I lose the money in my bank account?” The answer: “No. The money still belongs to you and can easily be accessed at an ATM in Mexico using your debit card.”

“In short, the U.S. created this special banking system specifically for illegal aliens and tens of billions of dollars have streamed through it,” Judicial Watch said.

“The president is well aware that the overwhelming majority of remittances to Mexico are sent by those living in the U.S. illegally,” Judicial Watch said. “In fact, his proposal was to create a rule that ‘no alien may wire money outside of the United States unless the alien first provides a document establishing his lawful presence in the United States.’ The Federal Reserve’s ‘Directo a Mexico’ has no such requirement.”

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