HR 1813 is not the name of a deadly virus like H1N1. It’s the Border Wall Funding Act 2017. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers from Alabama and eight of his colleagues introduced the act on March 30. If approved, it would be as lethal as swine flu. The act would impose a two per cent tax on all remittances from the US to Latin America and the Caribbean. Tax evaders could face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Jamaica is listed among the foreign countries to which the law would apply. But not Trinidad and Tobago. They’re not on the map? How we get mixed up in funding Trump’s wall? It’s a clear case of ‘cyaan ketch Kwaku, yu ketch im shut’. Donald Trump promised his supporters that Mexico would pay for the wall. It seems as if it never occurred to him that the Mexicans would kiss dem teeth and tell him to go to hell.
NBC’s comedy show Saturday Night Live did a clever skit on February 4 in which Trump calls the Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto. Taking on the role of a scammer, Trump goes straight for the kill: “Congratulations! You’ve just won a free cruise for two to Hawaii. We just need your country’s credit card number.” Trump is definitely not as successful as our MoBay experts. Pena Nieto immediately recognises his voice and mockingly says, “We’re not paying for the wall, Donald.” And hangs up.
Fun and joke aside, Trump now seems to realise that he can’t force the Mexicans to pay for his wall. So he tried to get American taxpayers to foot the bill. But Trump couldn’t muster enough support from even Republicans to get the wall in the Budget. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer sums up Trump’s dilemma this way in a Washington Post article published on May 1: “Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate were closer to one another than Republicans were to Donald Trump.”
Congressman Mike Rogers and his posse of eight have broadened the search for sacrificial victims. It’s all of Latin America and the Caribbean that must now pay for the wall. It’s a lunatic proposition. There is no rational basis for it. Why should hard-working American citizens and legal immigrants be taxed to send remittances abroad? Even illegal immigrants should not be taxed. They already pay taxes all the time on goods and services. A two per cent tax might sound like nothing to rich people like Donald Trump who are ‘smart’ enough to evade taxation. But it’s a huge burden on the poor.
Furthermore, the proposed tax is counterproductive. By reducing the amount of money sent abroad, the tax would actually increase the likelihood that new migrants would try to get into the US to make money for themselves. Doesn’t it occur to the anti-immigration brigade that it would it make more sense to support potential immigrants outside the country with untaxed remittances? Then, in this unconscionable scheme, remittance companies would be paid five per cent of the new taxes they collect to cover their administrative costs. That’s on top of their own fee for doing the transfer.
As one of my witty friends says, if the act is passed, a specialist job category would emerge: remittance mules. They would join the band of operatives who are trafficking illegal money across the world. Except that this trafficking would now be in perfectly legal money that the US government would have wickedly turned into contraband as a consequence of the inhumane remittance tax.
The headline of a New York Times article published on February 6, 2017 tells a complicated story. I suppose Donald Trump would say it’s fake news: ‘California Farmers Backed Trump, but Now Fear Losing Field Workers’. It’s a contradiction that makes perfectly good sense. Vote for Trump and cut off your nose to spite your face: “‘If you only have legal labor, certain parts of this industry and this region will not exist,’ said Harold McClarty, a fourth-generation farmer in Kingsburg whose operation grows, packs and ships peaches, plums and grapes throughout the country. ‘If we sent all these people back, it would be a total disaster.'”
Despite all the evidence that Trump’s wall will not stop illegal immigration, he simply refuses to abandon his fantasy. So the petitions keep swirling on the Internet to defeat his plan. The latest I’ve seen is an appeal to the Caterpillar company: “US President Donald Trump is about to take the next big step to make his 1,600km (1,000-mile) concrete wall along the US-Mexican border a reality. And he wants Caterpillar Inc, one of the world’s biggest construction equipment manufacturers, to help build it. Most of the world already sees this wall for what it is: a racist waste of resources and an international symbol of hate. With a majority of Americans against Trump’s wall, we think Caterpillar ought to reconsider the business opportunity.” Will they?
Even legal farm workers from the Caribbean would be trapped behind Trump’s wall. They would be caught in the remittance-tax scam. Caribbean governments must stand up to defend our citizens against exploitation. CARICOM must join with our Latin American counterparts to fight the Border Wall Funding Act. Like it or not, the economies of the region depend on remittances. It’s a matter of life and death.