WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman David Schweikert joined Arizona Senator Martha McSally and Congressman Greg Stanton in co-sponsoring the Southwest Tourism Expansion Act. Following the introduction, Congressman Schweikert released the following statement of support:
“Arizona’s economic growth has been created largely in part by our welcoming business environment and tourist attraction. By expanding the accessibility for our neighbors in Mexico across the state we will continue to grow our economy and help support our local businesses. I am pleased to be an original co-sponsor of this legislation and I am hopeful to see this common sense bill become law.”
The Southwest Tourism Expansion Act would create a pilot program to allow certain visitors from Mexican who already have permission to enter the United States to travel throughout the state of Arizona.
Current law limits Mexican nationals with a valid Border Crossing Card from traveling outside a designated travel zone from the port of entry through which they enter without applying for an additional federal I-94 form and paying a fee. For example, a card holder entering through Nogales is only permitted to travel as far as Tucson, limiting business and recreational opportunities in the central and northern parts of Arizona. McSally and Stanton’s pilot program would waive the I-94 form, effectively expanding the travel zone statewide.
Every day, thousands of frequent, low-risk, short-term visitors travel from Mexico to Arizona to conduct business, visit family and friends, or shop—and every day they spend collectively and estimated $7.3 million at Arizona businesses. A 2015 study from the University of Arizona projects that extending the tourism and shopping zone for Border Crossing Card holders statewide would generate an additional $181 million in annual spending, increasing the spending total to nearly $3.1 billion and impacting more than 31,000 jobs.
- Tourism was the top export industry in Arizona in 2018.
- 45.5 million people visited the state and collectively spent $24.4 billion, supporting 192,300 industry jobs and generating $3.63 billion in tax revenue.
- The tax revenue generated equates to an annual tax savings of $1,360 for every Arizona household. [Source]
- Arizona’s travel zone has been expanded once before in 1999, and New Mexico’s travel zone was expanded in 2013—both expansions occurred without compromising the states’ security or economic interests. [Source]
- Travelers with valid Border Crossing Cards have been vetted at a U.S. consulate in Mexico, undergo inspection at the port of entry, and can still be referred for more involved secondary screening or denied entry at the discretion of the inspecting officer.
- Holders of Border Crossing Cards have must demonstrate ties to Mexico that would compel them to return after their temporary stay in the U.S. Penalties for abusing the Crossing Card include cancellation of the card, fines, and losing the ability to re-apply in the future.
Sen. Martha McSally and Rep. Greg Stanton introduced companion bills in both the Senate and the House to expand tourism and recreation in Arizona. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Rep. David Schweikert joined McSally and Stanton as original co-sponsors of the House bill.
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