by Abdikhayr Soofe
Friday, December 05, 2014
Since the birth of the United States of America, immigrants and immigration have been issues of contention. However, all Americans—except Native Americans—are all immigrants. And even Native Americans, though the first Americans came here from Asia thousands of years ago. Although national leaders say virtually the same thing(s) about immigrants, many strongly disagree about how best to resolve their conflicting points of view and policy prescriptions. In the meantime, some members of the public make their own anti-immigrant sentiments and draw conclusions regarding what immigrants are about or not.
In this brief article, I want to shed some light on a particular myth and misconception associated with a particular group of immigrants, a myth, which for some inexplicable reason, seems to persist: “Somalis don’t pay taxes.” I have had lawyers, senior public officials, faith leaders and prominent business people ask whether it’s true that Somalis are a protected population, waived and/or exempted from paying taxes? Others have simply made assertive statements that Somalis do not pay taxes and that they get free stuff from the government as well.
It is obvious that some public officials avoid the use of the word “immigrants” altogether because they seem to believe that there is “a negative connotation” associated with immigrants. Is it possible that those leaders are also ill-informed about whether immigrants pay taxes or not? What mechanisms does the government use to collect taxes and from whom? Are there any statutes that exempt people from the obligation of paying payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, licenses, fees and many other taxes? Prejudging an entire group of people without checking one’s facts is the textbook definition of prejudice, and social scientists have empirically shown that that kind of prejudice derives from implicit bias that affects our thinking and behavior whether we are aware of it or not.
In the history of this nation, immigrants formed the backbone of its economy. For example, according to the US Small Business Administration, immigrants are found to have higher business startup rates than non-immigrants. In Central Oho and Franklin County, for instance, immigrants are 10% of the population, but represent 12.5% of the business owners. Like all other citizens and/or permanent residents, contrary to popular mythology, Somalis do pay taxes. Even undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes. The federal government issues them with a statutory instrument known as: “Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN),” which ensures that the Internal Revenue Service collects their taxes.
If you are still under the mistaken and utterly false impression that Somalis don’t pay taxes, just ask yourself, what is the name of the IRS form that permits particular groups of the population to opt out of paying taxes? After all, it should be public information, right? There is no such form. What might the motive for keeping this myth alive be? I wonder.