Why People Are Leaving The USA

by Kevin Burton

   Leaving your home country is a foreign concept that pushes against everything you have known from earliest childhood.

   At least for Americans it is.

   What set of circumstances would cause you to think about relocating permanently? 

  Wednesday we told one woman’s story. Amber Blackmon moved from the United States to Mexico in May of this year. She told her story on insider.com. To hear her tell it, six months in, everything is rosy (“Could You Leave The United States?,” Nov. 16).

   She left to escape institutionalized racism in the United States. Maybe six months isn’t enough time to find it, but there is plenty of racism in Mexico and everywhere else.

   The story was interesting even if it lacked essential nuance. It resonated with me because I moved to Mexico ever so briefly in the late 80s.  I ended up teaching English there was a while.

  I never thought the move was going be to be permanent. But for an increasing number of Americans such a step is final.

  •    “A record number of Americans are renouncing their citizenship,” wrote Brett Goodin in a Sept. 9, 2020 article on www.theconversation.com. “In just the first half of this year, 5,315 Americans gave up their citizenship.”
       “That puts the country on track to see a record-breaking 10,000 people renounce U.S. citizenship in 2020,” Goodin wrote.  “Until a decade ago, fewer than 1,000 Americans per year, on average, chose to renounce their citizenship.”

   Goodin hastens to add that no one political result or trend is causing this. He said the spike in Americans renouncing citizenship began in 2013, before American political turbulence began in earnest in 2016.

   “In fact, most Americans giving up their U.S. passport already live abroad and hold another citizenship,” Goodin writes. “In surveys and testimonials, these people say they’re dropping their U.S. citizenship because American anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism regulations make it too onerous and expensive to keep.”

   “In 2010, Congress passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which requires foreign financial institutions to report assets held abroad by U.S. citizens and green card holders,” Goodin writes.

   “The law, intended to identify the non-U.S. assets of all taxpayers, also ended up strengthening a 1970 anti-money laundering law, the Foreign Bank Account Report, which requires citizens to declare all foreign assets to the U.S. Treasury Department.”

   “Together, these two regulations represent a major burden for low-income and middle-income expatriates.”
   According to Goodin, only those expats who earn more than $106,700 abroad annually actually owe the US government any taxes. 

   “Still, all American expats – even those who’ve lived abroad for decades, earn no income in the U.S., and hold no U.S. assets – must submit an annual tax return to the Internal Revenue Service,” Goodin writes. “Many have had to hire costly international accounting firms to do their taxes.

   Goodin says the penalty for noncompliance is forfeiting up to half of all undeclared assets.

   You can follow that math. But it’s another thing for an American citizen to wake up in Memphis, Santa Fe or Minneapolis, survey the landscape and start weighing pros and cons of moving to another country.

   There was some of that in 2016. The Canadian government reported a spike in inquiries from Americans.

   I don’t recall reading of anybody investigating Mexico in 2016.  But I say

Mexico is as good a place to land as any.

   For one thing, Spanish is among the easier languages to learn. It is much easier than learning English as a Spanish speaker.

   Once I asked my ESL students if they were ready for an upcoming test. I then wrote the words “ready” and “really” on the board. The point was the “ea” sounds in the two words are different and there was no good reason for that.

  “It’s crazy,” I said, then shrugged “So, good luck!”

   In Spanish vowels don’t freelance like that. If you can see it, you can say it.

   Blackmon wrote that not knowing Spanish was not a big barrier for her.  Of course many Mexican nationals speak English because I taught them how!

   Blackmon also says the street food is safe, inexpensive and good. I would often eat the hot dogs sold by guys pushing a cart along the streets of Puebla.  I was in my 20s, immortal and indestructible then. But that food sure was good.

   I ate tortas, a sandwich made with hard bread, from a shop across the street from the school where I taught because the KFC next door to the school dispensed by far the greasiest food I have ever encountered for sale in any venue.

   According to Goodin, the final official divorce from the United States is complicated and expensive.  I cover that and other examples of US emigration tomorrow on Page 7.

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