Cornell International Law Journal




Using law to conscript financial technology in aid of state goals is not new. Financial institutions have long been subject to myriad legal and regulatory reporting requirements designed to combat money laundering, enforce economic sanctions, support tax compliance, and interdict the financing of terrorism. Trump's particular approach to this tradition, however, seeks to capitalize on a particularly toxic convergence of race, class, economics, and globalization. America is not alone in its recent experience with surges in right wing, nationalist populism. Globalism's winds have posed challenges to those who have enjoyed the benefits of protectionist trade policies that no longer exist, placing them on a collision course with diaspora migrants from the poorest countries who are now mobile, thanks to financial technologies that ease the process of remitting funds home. This collision is a complicated alchemy, which lays bare the ways in which populist faith in the free market appears to be eroding under the strain of globalization's effects. In politicizing migrant remittance flows to Mexico, Donald Trump has signaled both a political recognition of this erosion and a willingness to exploit it. In doing so, he has done more than simply peddle a narrative that appeals to a base of voters increasingly dissatisfied with America's political class. He has likely prompted a new set of considerations among diaspora communities anxious to preserve existing remittance flows in the face of intense anxiety about America's working poor. Yet this conflict demonstrates how modem payment platforms now serve a range of functions one might have seen in a medieval town square: they facilitate commerce while serving as points of conflict and as places of protest. Every possible kind of human and institutional actor passes through this square, shaping its form and function, whether deliberately or unwittingly. The respective aspirations of globalism's human casualties are a deeply complex ecology-reflecting a range of outlooks in relation to one another. On the heels of a presidential campaign defined by explicitly divisive rhetoric transcending the traditional limits of dog-whistle politics, dismissive attitudes towards Trump's campaign proposal have crystalized into palpable fears among progressives who now worry about the potential of witnessing the deployment of proposals that once seemed unlikely. Whether or not President Trump ultimately expands federal regulations to require proof of lawful presence in the country as a precondition of access to international remittance services may matter less than the consequences of linking these transactions to undocumented immigrants in the minds of the white working class.