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Homeland Security Forum with DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff ? Opening remarks

Thursday, April 28, 2005 - 8:00pm

By Thomas J. Donohue
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

April 29, 2005

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. I'm Tom Donohue, the Chamber's president and CEO, and I'm pleased to have you join in this discussion on homeland security.

Special thanks goes to our platinum sponsors—AIG, EDS, Equity International, MZM, and Perot Systems. I'd also like to thank event sponsor, ASIS International.

Events like this one are important as we tackle the fundamental challenge of balancing enhanced security with increased mobility.

We all want better security. The challenge is to do so in ways that don't impede our mobility. Our economy relies heavily on fast-cycle logistics, international travel, and immigrants in search of opportunity.

I've said all along that if we shut down our borders and otherwise slow down the engines of commerce for security reasons, then Osama bin Laden will achieve the victory he's after.

The Chamber continues to work with Secretary Chertoff, DHS, and others leaders to enhance security without compromising core American values of freedom, mobility, and opportunity.

We believe there are a number of priorities that government and business should be working on together, and I'd like to briefly share a few with you.

We need a clearly-articulated cargo security strategy that effectively improves security without putting undue strain on the global supply chain.

We must encourage the development and deployment of state-of-the-art anti-terror technology and programs through a more rapid rollout of the SAFETY ACT and with more clearly defined liability protection for homeland security solution providers.

Let's work together to create a critical infrastructure protection strategy in which information between government and business is shared—but protected from abuse.

We need to ease the burden of traveling to and within the United States.

We were reminded again at the Chamber's third Travel and Tourism Summit last week that difficulties in obtaining visas and long security lines upon entering the country are incentives for international travelers to spend their tourist dollars somewhere other than here.

Finally, we need to reform our immigration policy so that foreigners can come here and fill critical jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.

There are some 11 million illegal aliens in this country – and the overwhelming majority of them work hard in jobs that most Americans are unwilling to take. If we tried to deport them, our economy would collapse.

The Chamber is working with the Administration to create a new immigration policy that establishes a closely monitored guest worker program and gives undocumented workers already contributing to our economy an earned pathway to legal recognition.

With Secretary Chertoff leading the Department of Homeland Security, we're confident that we can achieve these goals.

By all accounts, he and his leadership team have made a significant impact on the Department in just two-and-a-half months on the job.

The secretary has launched a top-to-bottom review of the organization, given greater clarity to the role of risk management in building sustainable homeland security policies and procedures, and begun to build stronger relationships with Congress.

The Secretary is a former judge, lawyer, prosecutor and senior Justice Department official, so he has a wealth of skills and experience from which to draw upon as we strive to make our country more secure, yet open for business.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Secretary Chertoff.