Mississippi State Sen. Joey Fillingane
A Mississippi legislator has caught on to an idea that if the federal government won’t complete a border fence separating the United States from Mexico, the states will – and he’s planning on taxing illegal immigrants to fund it.
Republican State Sen. Joey Fillingane has filed S.B. 2255, which would charge a fee on all money transfers wired out of the United States, then count the amount as a credit on Mississippi citizens’ tax returns. The result: Only illegal immigrants sending money abroad would ultimately pay the fees, since they cannot file tax returns to receive a refund.
The net revenue from the non-refunded fees, S.B. 2255 specifies, would then be sent to states like Arizona and Texas for construction of a border fence.
“It’s a very novel idea and certainly a departure from the thinking that the border is the federal government’s responsibility,” Fillingane told southern Mississippi’s SunHerald. “I think this is the kind of idea, if it takes root, it takes time to educate people on it and then let them marinate on the idea. Just because we have never done something before, certainly doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t.”
Fillingane admits the idea wasn’t even his originally, but was presented to him through a tea-party group called the Mississippi Patriots.
A video explaining the bill, produced by the Mississippi Patriots and including a radio interview with Fillingane, can be seen below:
Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, has criticized the bill as harassment of Latinos, who often wire money to relatives back home.
“Many of the legislators, mainly some of the white legislators, are pandering to their perceptions of how their constituents feel about people of color,” Chandler told the SunHerald. “At one time they were overtly pandering to racism against African-Americans, but now that is muted. The fact that there are Latinos in Mississippi, and they are vulnerable, they are now targets.”
But Fillingane rejects the notion that his bill is a racist attack on Latinos.
“It doesn’t target Indians, it doesn’t target Hispanics even; it targets people who are here in the country illegally, be they from Hispanic-speaking countries or English-speaking countries or Chinese-speaking countries, it doesn’t matter,” Fillingane said. “The bill is designed to go after people breaking the law by being in the country without the proper documentation.”
In 2009, Oklahoma imposed a similar system of tax-deductible fees on wire transfers – though it didn’t submit banks and Internet companies like Paypal to the same charges, as Fillingane’s plan does – in order to support the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics fund. According to the Oklahoma City Journal Record, the fees had generated more than $3.7 million for the state in the system’s first year.
Sending vast amounts of money back home
Statistics from the Inter-American Development Bank, reported in the Wall Street Journal, show that migrant workers in the U.S. sent over $69 billion worth of wire transfers, or “remittances,” to relatives overseas in 2008, with over $25 billion sent to recipients in Mexico alone.
Workers in California rack up the most remittances, shipping more than $14 billion of cash earned in the state over the border each year.
The Journal also reports that some 1.35 million Guatemalan citizens – 10 percent of the population – live in the U.S., supporting 3.5 million people back home through remittances, which are now the top foreign-exchange earner for the Central American nation, ahead of coffee, sugar and other leading exports.
The Mississippi Patriots report that remittances from their state total about $99 million annually, while Mississippi spends an additional $106 million on public education, emergency medical care and incarceration of illegal aliens.
Now the organization is hoping to persuade legislators from other states to join Fillingane in filing bills similar to S.B. 2255.
“This unprecedented step will get the border fence built by the states after more than 24 years of waiting for Washington, D.C., to make good on the 1986 amnesty act that they passed into law,” said Mississippi Patriots spokesman Marvin Cox in a statement. “If only half the states participate, we could raise $1.2 billion annually for the fence with an average remittance fee of 5 percent.”
The Mississippi Patriots tell WND they expect the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee to vote on the bill early this week.