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Barbara 03-10-2006 10:04 PM

Mexico Blasts Bills to Tax Money Illegal Immigrants Wire Home - US a Cash Cow
Mexico blasts bills to tax money illegal immigrants wire home

By Greg Brosnan

March 5, 2006

MEXICO CITY – Mexican officials are complaining that a bill in Georgia's state legislature to tax the hundreds of millions of dollars that illegal immigrants wire home would unfairly hurt Mexicans working north of the border.

Sponsored by Republican lawmakers who charge that illegal immigrants use basic health and education services without contributing to them, the bill would force anyone unable to prove their legal status to pay tax on their wire transfers.

Mexicans living in the United States sent home about $20 billion to their families last year, more than all the foreign direct investment in the country and a major pillar of Mexico's economy, especially in poor areas.

Similar to a bill in Arizona's legislature, the Georgia measure has passed the state's lower house and is awaiting review in its Senate.

“The recently approved initiative . . . is unjust because it discriminates against people of Hispanic origin in general and Mexicans in particular,” Mexico's Foreign Ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry said it also was following the Arizona bill's progress and could take legal action should either proposal become law.

Finance Minister Francisco Gil slammed the bills last week, and a migrant representative said it was a foolhardy attack on workers he said were helping the economies of both countries.

“Unfortunately, this is a trend,” said Candido Morales, director of an institute for Mexicans living abroad. “Making life difficult for people who aren't legal, but who contribute to both the U.S. and Mexican economies.

While Georgia's bill would only tax illegal immigrants, Arizona's would tax all wire transfers out of the country.

Critics say that the laws would be ineffective, and that migrants would simply ship money home by less secure means.

Supporters of the bills in Georgia and Arizona argue that something must be done to salvage revenue from hundreds of millions of dollars they say slip out of their states untaxed.

“The reality is that a tremendous amount of undocumented illegal immigrants are in this country earing money and not paying any taxes,” said Rep. Calvin Hill, a Georgia Republican who sponsored his state's bill.

“They are utilizing the vast resources of the state but not financially contributing in any way,” said Hill, who estimated $1 billion was leaving the state every year in untaxed remittances from illegal immigrants alone.

Arizona officials said the money could beef up security along its border with Mexico. Hill said it would go into Georgia's indigent health care and education which illegal immigrants often use themselves.

“Now for the first time these people will have an opportunity to partially pay for these services,” Hill said. “This has nothing to do with being against immigrants.”

The Mexican-born population living in the United States is 9.9 million, according to figured cited by the Mexican Embassy in Washington.

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