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Chamber Urges Careful Approach to Border Screening
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The United States Chamber of Commerce today praised the Department of Homeland Security for its screening process for incoming foreign travelers at the nation's airports under the US-VISIT system, but warned tight deadlines for land points of entry are leading to potential shortcuts that could undermine safety and commerce.
"Our economic health and national security depend on a smooth expansion of the US-VISIT system to include land crossings," said Randel Johnson, Chamber vice-president of labor, immigration and employee benefits, testifying before the House Committee on Government Reform. "If the focus on deadlines means we get a system that doesn't protect our country without handcuffing trade and commerce, lawmakers must extend those deadlines."
In its testimony, the Chamber relied on input from local chambers and businesses along the northern and southern borders. From this survey, it was clear that there is a great deal of uncertainty and very real concern over the manner in which US-VISIT may be implemented and its impact on cross border travel and commerce.
Congressional deadlines require an entry/exit system be in place at the 50 busiest land border crossings by the end of 2004, with the remainder of land crossings completed by the end of 2005.
Trade between the U.S., Mexico and Canada at land crossings totals more than $540 billion a year. With more than 300 million individual crossings, monitoring should be comprehensive, but not impede legitimate commerce and business, according to the Chamber.
"With so much at stake in our border traffic systems, we can't afford to become guinea pigs during this change," said Johnson. "The government must demonstrate a workable system that ensures the flow of people and goods at our borders before the expansion is implemented."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses of every size, sector and region.
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