SC Immigration Bill Would Tax Wire Transfers To Fund Special Police Force

Last week, the South Carolina state Senate approved an immigration bill similar to SB-1070 — the controversial Arizona legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer (R). However, South Carolina’s version, S-20, contains a few extra provisions that were not included in Arizona’s bill. One of the most troubling additions is a provision which creates the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit, a new police force meant to patrol the state’s borders. The Columbia Free Times reports:

South Carolina’s proposed Arizona-style immigration bill, passed last week by the Senate, would do more than require police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally — it would also create a whole new police force to patrol the state’s borders.

Called the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit, the squad of officers would have their own insignia, patrol cars, uniforms and statewide jurisdiction while operating within the Department of Public Safety, but outside the S.C. Highway Patrol.

Given that it is probably pretty expensive to set up a whole new police force, South Carolina legislators decided to pay for the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit by taxing international wire transfers. Tammy Besherse of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center believes that lawmakers are trying to tax undocumented immigrants who are sending money home to their families. Besherse also doubts that the tactic will work. “I assure you people are going to be smart and figure out some other way to send money home so they don’t get taxed,” she says. “So what happens when that funding source goes away? Then your funding source is going to dry up and you’re going to have to take it out of the general budget and cut other services that taxpayers may prefer.”

There are a couple of other problems with the tax. First of all, the whole purpose of the law is to drive undocumented immigrants out of the state. So, if S-20 actually fulfills its objectives, there would presumably be no one to tax under the logic that Besherse presents.

Yet, the thing is, undocumented immigrants are not the only people sending money wire transfers abroad. There are a lot of legal immigrant families (my own included) which send money back to their home countries through wire transfers as well. Although it’s estimated that 75 percent of business to business wire transfers are domestic, that still means that the remaining 25 percent could be taxed by South Carolina under this law. Ultimately, unless South Carolina wants to force wire transfer companies to verify the immigration status of their customers, a lot of other people who aren’t undocumented immigrants will have to deal with the economic burden of the tax.

Meanwhile, South Carolina state lawmakers reportedly have no idea how much an Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit is even going to cost.