In his proposal for stricter security at the U.S-Mexico border, Donald Trump seized on an issue that could make him very unpopular among immigrants: remittances.
Remittance payments—money that immigrants send back to their home countries—are one of the latest targets for Trump, who proposed that unless Mexico funds a wall at its northern border, the U.S. should “impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages” of Mexicans working in the U.S.
Mexico currently receives nearly $24.4 billion in remittances each year from immigrants in the U.S., accounting for about 2 percent of the Mexican GDP, according to the World Bank. Across the globe, immigrants sent $583 billion back to their home countries in 2014, with $440 billion of that going to developing countries. Remittances usually form just a small fraction of a country’s national GDP, but they still accounted for almost four times the $135 billion in global foreign aid that was disbursed last year. In the following map, you can click on any country to see where it immigrants living there send money home.
And Trump isn’t the only one with his eye on remittance payments. World leaders who recognize the importance of the remittance industry in their economies include Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose recent visit to the United Arab Emirates put the issue in the spotlight as he worked to attract greater foreign investment in India. This is for good reason, since remittances tend to increase in times of recession while other forms of investment decrease, as tougher times at home can elicity more money from friends and family abroad. India receives about $12 billion in remittances from the UAE, and remittances from the broader Gulf region play a significant part in the economy of South Indian states like Kerala.
While Trump’s plan to confiscate the remittances of undocumented workers may be impractical—not to mention controversial—global remittances provide an interesting look at how immigrants in the U.S. and beyond are lifting people from their own countries out of poverty by sending money home. The practice is most prevalent in Tajikistan, which receives about 40 percent of its national GDP in the form of remittances.
Remittances and migration unit data are provided by the World Bank Group. The estimates of total migrant population were obtained from the World Bank’s Bilateral-Remittance matrix. The estimates in this data set are compiled from various primary and secondary sources for international migrant population and remittance outflows, and may in some cases fail to capture the complete volumes of remittances. For more information about the methodology, see South-South Migration and Remittances, by Dilip Ratha and William Shaw.