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Public Statements

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. GABBARD. Thank you very much, and I appreciate my colleague from California for leading and encouraging this conversation to talk about the comprehensive immigration reform bill in a context that's much broader than has been talked about in many of the headlines.

Madam Speaker, for all of us to understand and recognize the great economic benefits and impacts of this bill on our country, we have to recognize that our borders do not just consist of those on the southwest border, our borders do not just consist of those along the northern part of our country with Canada, but these borders exist in every single one of our international airports all across the country.

Anyone who talks to me, it doesn't take very long for them to figure out how much I love my State of Hawaii, and also that I enjoy hearing from other people how much they love Hawaii as well. Travelers to Hawaii spent $16.9 billion in 2011 alone, and generated $2.5 billion which went to Federal, State and local governments, dollars that helped fund and create local jobs and public programs, such as funding our police, our firefighters, our teachers, our infrastructure projects, and our convention centers, where we host many, many gatherings of a diverse group of industries from all over the world.

In 2011, 160,800 jobs were created by the travel industry in my State of Hawaii alone. For every million dollars spent in Hawaii by travelers, 10 jobs are created. Everyone knows Hawaii is a tourist destination, but we have to realize the great potential that exists for our country to be marketed as a tourist destination as well, and what that impact will be.

Unbeknownst to many people, there are tourism provisions in the Senate bill, this comprehensive immigration reform bill, that will allow us to create an additional 1.3 million U.S. jobs by 2020 and produce about $160 billion in economic output by the year of 2020.

It's time for us to regain our share of the global travel market. From 2000 to 2010, the United States went from hosting 17 percent of all global travelers to just 12 percent. This is moving us in the wrong direction. By taking these steps that have been included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill, we can increase American exports cumulatively by $390 billion over the next 10 years.

I would like to talk about a couple of the travel provisions that have been included in the Senate bill that will encourage tourism not only in my home State of Hawaii but in States all across the country where we have such great diversity of cultures and geography and communities that must be celebrated.

The Senate bill includes reforms to the highly successful visa waiver program that allows additional countries like Brazil and Poland to apply for admission, enhancing U.S. security while also welcoming more visitors to the United States.

This bill also expands the tested and proven global entry program that allows preapproved, low-risk international travelers the ability to utilize an expedited clearance process upon entry into the United States. This expedited entry for trusted travelers enables our Customs and Border Patrol personnel to focus their time and limited resources on inspecting unknown or higher-risk travelers.

This bill also allows for expedited visa reviews for travelers who wish to visit the U.S. on short notice. And also, an important provision which will help service the limited resources of our embassies by including a pilot program that tests the use of secure video conferencing to conduct visa interviews, which would provide increased access to the United States visas for potential travelers. In this day and age of technology, this is a commonsense approach to this updating of the immigration reform bill.

There are many more provisions that are included in this bill. It is time for us to market the United States as a destination for our global traveler community and create the jobs for our hotel owners, for our airlines, for the restaurants, and all the small businesses that will benefit from this, and create more jobs for our economy as a result.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this growing industry.


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