The Electronic Wall Keeping Americans In

Every day thousands of legal immigrants arrive in the U.S. ready to build a life in one of the greatest democracies the world has ever known. These legal immigrants start businesses, form partnerships with U.S. citizens, find jobs working for large and small companies. They pay U.S. taxes and they have no obligation to report back nor pay taxes to their home countries. They find it easy to be assimilated into our private economy and our society.

Why is it then that the U.S. restricts the freedom of emigration for its own citizens? The U.S. is the only major nation to tax its citizens based on the fact that they are American and not based on the country where they reside. All other countries allow their citizens to emigrate and integrate into the countries to which they live. The U.S. does not.

This system means that U.S. citizens who have emigrated, even those who have lived overseas for most of their lives, must continue to report back to the U.S., often suffering double taxation. Furthermore the penalties for not reporting foreign bank accounts are draconian. Even where no taxes are owed, assets from accounts can be seized. This is fundamentally different from the way that citizens are treated who live in the U.S. This system essentially forces U.S. citizens who want to integrate into their new homeland to renounce or relinquish their U.S. citizenship.

This effectively puts U.S. emigrants in the squeeze play. Either be deprived of fully participating as a citizen of the country in which you live or renounce your U.S. citizenship and suffer the draconian oppression of U.S. laws. Renouncing ones citizenship is expensive, often traumatic and usually includes a healthy dose of harassment from the U.S. government. Just the processing fee for renunciation, $2,300, is the highest in the world. If one makes too much income or has a moderately sized business then exit taxes are owed. These taxes and associated penalties can be backbreaking if one has built a business while living overseas.

The harassment package that accompanies all of this includes threats to never being allowed back into your home country (Reed amendment), and a name and shame list of those who have renounced (This puts the U.S. only in the company of North Korea.). The FBI is even required by law to maintain a watch list of renunciants.

The right to emigrate is a fundamental human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the UN on December 10, 1948 and signed by the United States. Article 13 states that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” U.S. policies run contrary to fundamental human rights. It is time for the US to live up to its claim to being the “freest country on the planet.” 

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