In a recent Facebook exchange in American Expatriates 2.0 a large group discussed the impact of how the US Government treated Americans abroad. Some members were sharing stories about the family impact of US Non-Residential taxation, FATCA, and super-imposing the US tax system on top of our resident countries’ tax systems. Some of the stories are heartbreaking. Many have a spouse that are citizens of another country. The US Government has put a lot of stress on these people’s lives. Split bank accounts, unknown pension, massive amounts of paperwork, potential erroneous fines. Some are even faced with a marriage breakup.
Apparently, our Government does not care about this.
However, one member explained that their 20-year-old son had recently renounced his citizenship. His story of why he did it hit me on many levels. Paraphrasing, he saw no reason why a Government should put so many limitations on his life, and he wanted to be no part of such an authoritarian regime.
I have had the same discussion with my kids. According to them, they will wait and see if something changes. However, if it doesn’t soon, they will renounce. Hearing that comment from both of my kids shocked me. Although they have never lived in the US, they take a lot of pride in being American. In fact, I can actually say, more than their other nationality. They have both been to the US and spent time there. They fit in perfectly. Both are tri-lingual with little if any accent. Both attend the highest level school (Gymnasium) and do well in school, and are involved in sports and other activities. I am bragging, but they are what you could call “All-American kids.” I would even welcome the idea of them going to the US and somehow contributing if they wanted that.
However, my kids have seen the stress that my citizenship has caused our family. Their mother refused to sign anything American. “Who do they think they are?” The kids have also seen the constant digging for paperwork, having to take trips with me to the US Consulate, drive two hours to get to the US tax adviser, and jump through hoops to try to stay compliant with both Swiss and US law. Then there was the stupidity of the IRS demanding that my wife needed to send her original passport to the US when we were trying to get her TIN. Being that my wife needed her passport and would never send her passport to a foreign country’s government, that wasn’t an option either. We ended up getting a Consulate person in Frankfurt (4 hours away) to agree to help. It was then that my wife said, “I wish I wouldn’t have married an American.” My kids experienced this. My kids also saw me being down when an investor called me “toxic” and the investor refused to invest in a startup because I was American. They saw me not being able to get a particular job because of the signatory function would expose the company to US tax law. They both saw the months-long struggle when it came to getting a bank account for them. None of their friends have ever had these types of problems.
Then suddenly, there was the support for Dreamers in the US and the enormous amount of attention to fixing their problems. Although I (and my kids) can sympathize with the Dreamers and believe that they should be protected (my daughter telling me that we are immigrants too), I cannot understand that our Government and media pay NO attention to our issues. How do I explain that to my kids?
Both of them found their pride in America fading quickly, as if there was no hope to ever change our issues. One day, my son had an argument with some American male on a social media site who told him, “if you don’t live here (in the US), it is your own fault for living overseas.” My son said that this person argued in support of “Dreamers” and had said that it was not the fault of the Dreamers that their parent had brought them to the US. My son explained that it wasn’t his fault that he was American, and I (as his father) had made the decision to live abroad before he was born. The answer, “then you are not American.” My son replied, “the Dreamers aren’t American, but I am.” The final answer, “you don’t matter, you’re overseas”.
This is not about choice, support Dreamers OR support us. This is about supporting our future generation that is not getting basic representation from our Government and solving life-limiting issues.
As mentioned, my kids have seen everything that the US Government was doing to us as a family. But this was the first time that my son had experienced the hypocrisy that exists for Americans abroad. The realization for him was a very sad experience. All this based on a law that was made during the Civil War to punish people for leaving. We are still punished.
He is 18 now and will register to vote. It may be his only time that he votes as a US Citizen. My daughter may not make it that far.
Losing kids like this cannot be good for the US as a country. Instead of making America more attractive to these great kids, the US Government presents itself as your owner who stubbornly attempts to rule your life from thousands of miles away. I am sure that there are many other examples of this. If our Government is legitimately concerned about Dreamers and our youth, they had better start to pay more attention to young Americans abroad, because if they do not, our young people will leave them – because they can.