American Emigration Over The Years

by Kevin Burton

   It is conventional wisdom in the United States that a US passport is the prized possession.

   It would be foolish to downplay the benefits of American citizenship to many who live here. But for some it may be wise to at least look into what some other places may have to offer.

   I’ve been on this train of thought this week after reading an article Monday on by Amber Blackmon, a woman who left the US in May, to live in Mexico.

   I made such a move in 1987. But by the time Danny Manning led the Kansas Jayhawks to the 1988 college basketball championship, I was back in Kansas to cheer them on.

   Blackmon told a one-sided story about the better parts of her life in Mexico, contrasted with her frustrations about the USA.

   I would never deny the reality of her frustrations, which centered on systematic racial discrimination in the USA. But real life is always a lot more complicated than she painted it. I found that out myself.

   During my Mexican sojourn, at the very least, I abandoned the notion that everything good and golden stops at the US border.

   Last year Brett Goodin wrote on that Americans are renouncing their citizenship at a record rate. He said the reasons behind that were mostly not related to the 2016 American political upheaval.

   Goodin said most of those people were living abroad already and turned in their passports not for political reasons but for economic ones, dealing with American tax laws. 

   There have been other examples of Americans leaving the country, with mixed results.  At least 30,000 young Americans left the country during the Vietnam War era, according to Wikipedia, and another 1,000 deserted the armed forces and found their way to Canada. They were eventually welcomed back.

    A sizeable group of Americans left the US for Russia during the great depression. Tim Tzouliadis, in his book “The Forsaken,” tells the story of how those people essentially traded poverty in America for tyranny in Stalinist Russia.

   In an interview on, he explained how the idea of moving to Russia must have been seductive for people at the time.

   Looking back on it now, of course we know more about the true nature of Stalinism,” Tzouliadis said. “But you have to remember that in 1931 the whole of western capitalism seemed to collapsing – and that wasn’t the left wing point of view, that was the moderate point of view.”

   “Twenty-five percent of the United States was out of a job, and the stock market had crashed so far that it would take 30 years to come back to 1929 levels. You had people queuing up for bread and living in coke ovens.”

   “And then if you read in an American newspaper that in Russia they’re opening up factories every day, that the workers are going to (be) given great standards and great wages, that you won’t be exploited, you’ll work shorter hours, you’ll (have) free medicine, free schooling for your children… it would have sounded perfect.”

   “And at the same time there were respected Western intellectuals like George Bernard Shaw who were appearing on American radio programs to say ‘Russia is the future, other countries will soon follow their model.’”

   Political, cultural and economic winds are ever-swirling. People have to make the best informed decisions that they can for themselves and their families.

   For those who have sized up their lives and researched their new country of choice, this is what faces them on the permanent exit from the USA according to Goodin.

   “Becoming American is a favorite topic in U.S. literature,” he wrote. “But there is very little written about the reverse, unbecoming American.’

   “Renouncing U.S. citizenship is pretty complicated and costly. It involves one or two interviews with a consular officer, a $2,350 administrative fee – very expensive compared to other wealthy countries – and potential audit of the citizen’s last five years of U.S. tax returns.”

   “The whole process takes about a year,” Goodin writes. “Once you have successfully unbecome American, you need to submit a tax return to the IRS the year after renouncing.”

   “After that, your ties to the U.S. government are severed.”

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