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Chamber of Commerce Urges Immigration Reforms to Help Economy

September 6, 2011

In an open letter to Congress and the President which was sent on Labor Day 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue urges a streamlining of visa processing to increase travel and tourism to the United States.

The letter was sent at the beginning of the week in which President Obama is to announce the Administration’s jobs plan to decrease an unemployment rate which has hovered between 9% and 10% for the last 2 years.  The letter details a series of actions which can be immediately undertaken to create more American jobs.

Section 4 of the letter deals with immigration . . .

4. WELCOME TOURISTS AND BUSINESS VISITORS TO THE UNITED STATES

Travel and tourism is a small business-centered sector that already accounts for $700 billion in revenues and 7.4 million American jobs. Spending by foreign tourists counts as U.S. exports and helps our balance of trade. When business visitors come here for conferences, training, and trade shows and to buy our products, they strengthen America’s role as the center of innovation and global commerce. We have an opportunity to create new jobs, spur consumer spending, and generate more revenues for government at all levels.

  • Remove the hassle factor. Now is the time to make travel to the United States more convenient and welcoming. We must expand the visa waiver program and reform and streamline the visa application process to ensure a consistent, predictable, fair, and timely process without compromising security. We should implement trusted travelers programs that speed through low-risk travelers who submit to a comprehensive screening and pay a fee. Wait times at customs should not exceed 30 minutes.
  • Promote American destinations. Congress and the administration should work aggressively to achieve the full potential of the Travel Promotion Act—a private-public partnership requiring no U.S. taxpayer funds—to promote America as a travel destination abroad. We can create 1.3 million American jobs by 2020 just by restoring the U.S. share of the travel market to its 2000 levelThe United States is the greatest destination in the world, but the world needs to know that.

On the final page of the letter, Mr. Donohue writes, “We must address, without further delay, the need to substantially reform our education, immigration, health care, capital markets, and legal systems.”

The complete text can be found here.

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