News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Weds. May 3, 2017: On March 30, 2017, Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) introduced H.R. 1813, the Border Wall Funding Act of 2017, which, if enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, would impose a 2% fee on all remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Mr. Rogers’ Bill was co-sponsored by eight of his Republican colleagues. The Bill has been referred to the relevant House Committees for consideration.
As members of the immigrant community, members of the Caribbean Diaspora must send a very strong message to Mr. Rogers and President Donald Trump: Taxing Remittances to build your Wall is not an option!
I am outraged, the Caribbean Diaspora is outraged, all decent and moral Americans should be outraged, and all Caribbean governments should be outraged. It is not enough to be merely monitoring the progress of the proposed legislation. Action is required now to make sure this draconian tax Bill does not emerge from the Congressional Committees. The Caribbean Diaspora must partner with other immigrant and Diaspora groups to prevent Congress from sending H.R. 1813 to the President’s desk. There are friends in Congress willing to work with us.
Congressman Rogers’ Press Releases sought to confuse or deceive the American public as to which group of people and which countries would be affected by H.R.1813, by referring to “illegal immigrants” and to the annual remittances received by Mexico “and countries south of our border.” However, the provisions of H.R. 1813 are unequivocally applicable to all LAC countries – they are all listed. He also made it clear that his legislation “will help make the wall a reality without any additional costs to America’s taxpayer.” That’s false, Mr. Rogers. Hundreds of thousands of members of the immigrant community who send remittances are U.S. permanent residents and citizens who already pay taxes.
So this is not just about the Wall Mr. Rogers, this is about common decency and morality. It is immoral for you to propose a tax on life-saving financial support; on life-sustaining support sent by a son or daughter to his or her elderly parent or grandparent. Remittances are sent to feed, clothe, and provide a home for loved ones of all ages. Remittances make a difference whether or not a recipient parent or grandparent becomes homeless. Remittances determine whether a child in a poor country has the opportunity to receive a basic education. Remittances put food on their table and prevent hunger in many households in the remotest parts of LAC. Remittances prevent malnutrition, help to prevent diseases, and save lives of recipients in poor countries.
A few more things you and your colleagues should know, Mr. Rogers. The largest percentage of Remittances is sent by low income earners; people who have worked hard and paid their taxes. Remittances are also sent by adult American born sons and daughters of immigrants to their grandparents to help them buy their medicines and pay for medical care; or as gifts on their birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas. Is that what you really want to tax Mr. Rogers?
Cosponsors of H.R. 1813 probably don’t understand all of this. In another context, taking from the poor and vulnerable would be referred to as a despicable act of thievery. Your 2% Remittance tax will engender anger – not just in the immigrant community but across all social and economic groups and ethnicities in America, among American citizens; once the truth is known.
It betrays common decency for you to suggest that the most vulnerable in our society should be saddled with the burden of building President Trump’s wall on the Mexican border. Would you welcome having the support that you provide to your family taxed to build the Wall after you have already paid personal income tax on these funds?
If this proposed tax is another expression of anti-immigrant prejudices let me explain one simple fact. Immigrants in the U.S. are hardworking men and women who pay a disproportionate amount of taxes on their hard earned income. Yes, Mr. Rogers, a disproportionate share of their income because they cannot afford professional tax preparers like you and the rich, and they almost always end up paying more taxes than they legally should or could. It is the same old playbook the poor and vulnerable always shoulder the greatest burden, disproportionately.
Mr. Rogers, you also know that your 2% Remittance tax will adversely affect the GDP of many poor countries in LAC. You referenced Mexico’s GDP in your Press Releases. But, do you know how your 2% tax on Remittances will impact on these countries, on law enforcement and security?
President Trump already has proposed 28% cuts in State Department/USAID budget for 2018. That reduction will drastically cut or eliminate programs strengthening security and law enforcement capacity building. The over $800 million proposed cut to the Treasury Department’s International Programs will slow down or end AML/CFT capacity building and make it easier for transnational criminal networks to launder ill-gotten funds and for narco-traffickers to finance terrorism. This threatens U.S. national security. These are un-intended consequences, collateral damage from your 2% Remittance tax.
The wise course, Mr. Rogers, lay off Remittances. Build your Wall with funds from somewhere else. President Trump, tell Republicans in Congress you will not take money from the poor and vulnerable to build your Wall. Should you not do so, Mr. Trump your Wall will be a monument to the hunger, and the pain and suffering of people around the world. That will be your history; that will be your legacy. Mr. Trump, Is that how you as the 45th President of the greatest country known to mankind want to be memorialized? Mr. Trump, do you wish for this callousness to be inscribed on your Wall?
Mr. President, you can build your Wall “Bigly” and “Beautiful” but I assume your advisers haven’t told you: Remittances are not faceless. Mr. Trump, tell Mr. Rogers and his Republican congressional colleagues you won’t stoop so low to build your high Wall!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ambassador Curtis A. Ward, B.A., J.D., LL.M., is an attorney and international consultant, and Adjunct Professor in the Homeland Security Graduate Program at the University of the District of Columbia. As former Ambassador of Jamaica to the United Nations he served two years on the U.N. Security Council. He was Expert Adviser to the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee for three years. He specializes in terrorism/counterterrorism legal and policy frameworks; anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT); sanctions implementation; crime and security; human rights, rule of law and governance.