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Rep. Hern bill would tax wire transfers out of US to fund border efforts, tackle illegal immigration

Adam Shaw, Fox News

FIRST ON FOX: A new bill introduced by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., would tax person-to-person wire transfers out of the United States as a way to discourage illegal immigration and combat cartel activity at the border -- a measure that has been called for by immigration hawks for years.

The WIRED (Withholding Illegal Revenue Entering Drug Markets) Act would charge a 5% fee on remittance payments leaving the United States, which are frequently used by foreign nationals from Mexico and Central America to send money back home to family members. The World Bank estimated that in 2021, approximately $74.5 billion left the U.S. in remittances.

U.S. citizens and legal immigrants would be able to claim any such fees back as a tax credit, meaning the tax would in theory be paid only by those in the country illegally. Efforts to evade the tax would be punishable by up to a $500,000 fine, and the legislation would remove foreign aid and visa waiver program participation from countries that helped people evade it.

The money would go to a Border Enforcement Trust Fund, which would be used to employ additional Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff, and would also fund construction of border barriers and detention facilities.

"The crisis at our border gets more serious every day, while Democrats sit on their hands and ignore it. Millions of Americans are in danger," Hern said in a statement to Fox News Digital. "We need every tool in our arsenal to combat the cartels and regain control of our border."

"This new remittance fee is a financial weapon we can use to target illicit activity funneling money from the US to the cartels while simultaneously supporting our agents down at the border. It’s a small step, but it brings us closer to securing the border and deterring illegal activity," he said.

Remittance taxes have been called for by immigration hawks for years, and were considered by Republicans during the Trump administration as a way to pay for the border wall. Proponents have noted that illegal immigrants will move to the United States, where wages are higher than in their home countries, and send money back home -- often untaxed. Therefore stopping that process would remove the incentives to travel to the U.S.

The bill is modeled on similar legislation implemented in Oklahoma, which has reportedly raised $12 million a year. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which calls for lower levels of immigration overall and has endorsed Hern’s legislation, estimates that the Border Enforcement Trust Fund could see $3.36 billion put into it in a single year.

"By imposing such a fee, it will infuse billions of dollars into our border security apparatus by charging the very people who exploited border weaknesses in the first place: illegal aliens," FAIR said in a statement. "We encourage all members of Congress to support this important bill at a critical time."

NumbersUSA, which also advocates for lower immigration, said that remittances have become "a major source of revenue for countries that are doing little or nothing to dissuade their citizens from migrating illegally to the United States."

"Congressman Hern's bill builds upon the success of Oklahoma's remittance law, taxing the funds leaving the country and using that revenue to better fund America's immigration enforcement system. It effectively reduces the pull factor, while beefing up our ability to stop future illegal immigration," the group said.

This legislation is one of a number of bills and policies to deal with the ongoing crisis at the southern border that are being proposed by Republican lawmakers. More than 200,000 migrants have been hitting the border each month amid a crisis that has dragged on for well over a year and shows no immediate signs of slowing down.

Republicans last week proposed a sweeping blueprint of policies to secure the border and end loopholes in the asylum system if they retake the majority in the House after the November midterms.