Guyanese living in the United States may soon be forced to pay to help build President Donald Trump’s controversial wall along the Mexican border with their remittances. That is if a new bill titled HR 1813 or the Border Wall Funding Act is passed.
This bill, which was introduced to the House of Representatives by Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Alabama is supported and endorsed by FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform and would impose a 2% fee on all remittances headed south of the US border. This would be achieved through an amendment of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act
A press release from Roger’s office noted that “remittances, or wire transfers, are commonly used by illegal immigrants to move money from the US to their home countries. In 2014, Mexico alone received over $24 billion in remittances sent from the US, while other South and Central American countries received over 15% of their GDPs in the form of remittances.”
In his introduction of the bill on March 30, 2017 Rogers is quoted as having told the House that as a senior member of the Homeland Security committee he has long supported the wall which President Trump has made very clear that he intends to complete along the Southern border of the United States. As such he has introduced this bill which is expected to jumpstart the funding of the wall which was a central theme of Trump’s presidential campaign.
“I have introduced a bill to impose a 2% fee on remittances sent south of the border. This bill is simple – anyone who sends their money to countries that benefit from our porous borders and illegal immigration should be responsible for providing some of the funds needed to complete the wall. This bill keeps money in the American economy, and most importantly, it creates a funding stream to build the wall,” Rogers said.
Specifically the bill list 42 countries including Guyana and CARICOM countries such as Barbados, Belize, The Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, Grenada and Suriname. Other countries listed are Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Aruba, Curacao, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina.
The bill which is expected to have a five-year life span empowers a remittance transfer provider to collect the fee if the designated recipient of a remittance transfer is located in any of the named countries. The fee is to be equal to 2% of the US$ amount to be transferred (excluding any fees or other charges imposed by the remittance transfer provider).
It also provides for the a remittance transfer provider to retain up to 5% of the fees to cover the costs of collecting and submitting such remittance fees to the Treasury to be expended for the purpose of improving border security.
Further, the Bureau in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of the Treasury, and remittance transfer providers shall no later than September 30, 2017 develop and make available a system for remittance transfer providers to submit the remittance fees collected in to the Treasury; and retain the 5% portion.
The drafted legislation has also been sponsored by Lou Barletta of Pennsyl-vania, Matthew Gaetz of Florida, Morris Brooks of Alabama, Austin Scott of Georgia, Trent Franks of Arizona, John Culberson of Texas, Trent Kelly of Mississippi, and Eric Crawford of Arkansas.
It recommends stiff penalties for any failure to comply with its provisions. Under the proposed Act anyone who attempts to evade paying the fee or who has knowledge that, at the time of a remittance transfer, the value of the funds involved in the transfer will be further transferred to a recipient located in a country listed requests or facilitates such remittance transfer to recipient in a country that is not listed shall be subject to a penalty of not more than US$500,000 or twice the value of the funds involved in the remittance transfer, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both.
Additionally any country that, in the joint determination of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of State aids or harbours an individual conspiring to avoid the fee collected in accordance with this subsection shall be ineligible to receive foreign assistance and to participate in the visa waiver programme or any other programmes, at the discretion of the Secretaries.
As of April 21, 2017 the bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
Throughout his presidential campaign Trump called for the construction of a much larger and fortified wall the construction of which he claimed Mexico would fund. The Mexican government has vehemently rejected this position.
US Government funding for the current year is set to run out at midnight on Friday unless Congress can pass a bill to fund government programmes for the next fiscal year. The passage of this bill had been stymied by a White House demand that $1.4 billion be included as a down payment on the border wall.
However, yesterday Trump indicated that he is willing to remove this demand so as to avoid a shutdown of the federal government.
Various news agencies have reported that Trump, in a private meeting with conservative media outlets, said he might wait until Republicans begin drafting the budget blueprint for the fiscal year that starts on 1 October to seek government funds for building a wall along the US-Mexico border.
The New York Times also reported yesterday that a US Department of Homeland Security internal report in February estimated that the wall could cost about $21.6 billion while a report issued by Senate Democrats last week put the cost far higher, at nearly $70 billion.