An Oklahoma legislator who wrote a law imposing new fees for wire money transfers defended the measure Monday after a Mexican congressman assailed it as "discriminatory and immoral."
Mexico's House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution last week urging government agencies, including state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, to stop buying products from Oklahoma because of its tax on wire money transfers.
Congressman Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, president of the House's Economic Committee, said the embargo should serve as an example to other U.S. states who may consider copying Oklahoma.
"It's best that they know that Mexico will take action against states who do this," he said Monday during an interview in Spanish.
Guajardo Villarreal said his goal is to get Oklahoma to lift the tax and to get the U.S. government to intervene.
But Oklahoma Rep. Randy Terrill, who wrote the law that went into effect last year, accused Mexican lawmakers of trying to "bully" Oklahoma and called for even tougher sanctions against illegal aliens in the state.
"I think this is pretty clearly an attempt by a foreign nation to interfere with the internal affairs of a sovereign U.S. state, and I don't take too kindly to it, to be frank," said Terrill, R-Moore.
"If they're going to talk about embargoing anything, they need to start with an embargo on all those people running dope across the border into Oklahoma," he added.
The bill passed last year imposes a $5 fee on wire transfers of $500 or less. Wire transfers of more than $500 are subject to a fee of 1 percent.
The money goes into the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics' "Drug Money Laundering and Wire Transmitter Revolving Fund."
A spokeswoman for Colorado-based Western Union said Oklahoma is the only state that imposes such a fee, but a similar bill is being considered in Kansas.
Since the law went into effect in June, about $3.7 million has been deposited into the fund, OBN Director Darrell Weaver said.
Terrill, a harsh critic of illegal immigration, said the new law burdens mostly illegal immigrants and drug traffickers from Mexico who wire illegal proceeds back to their home country. A provision was added to the bill that allows legal residents to deduct the fee from their state income taxes, he said.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, exports to Mexico increased more than 40 percent in 2009 to more than $527 million, making that country second only to Canada in consumption of Oklahoma's goods.
"Obviously, any action that reduces trade would impact Oklahoma exporters in terms of revenue and market demand," Commerce spokesman Jason McCarty said. "It's premature to speculate on the specific economic impact the proposed resolution would have on Oklahoma."
Manufactured machinery accounted for about 31 percent of Oklahoma exports to Mexico, followed by processed foods (13.7 percent) and computer and electronic products (8.9 percent).
Associated Press Writer Ivan Moreno contributed to this report from Mexico City.