This week, I had the pleasure of welcoming a diverse coalition of leaders from the Southwest border to the White House – the group included elected officials, farmers, ranchers, business owners, law enforcement officials, faith leaders and community advocates from Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California.
We discussed what is working, and what we need to continue to work on, when it comes to increasing economic growth and strengthening public safety along the border.
The good news is that when it comes to our border communities, a lot is working. More than half a million people and a little less than a billion dollars in goods cross the border each day. And the U.S. border communities are also among America’s safest cities, with crime rates staying steady or dropping over the past decade.
But we also recognize that we can do more to improve efficiencies at U.S.-Mexico Ports of Entry and increase accountability of Federal enforcement officials in border states.
During the forum, White House officials, as well as representatives from the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Justice and Commerce, heard directly from the border representatives about the challenges on both sides of the border. The group brainstormed about new ways that the Administration can be an even stronger partner with the community to address the challenges and opportunities of this important region.
Under President Obama’s leadership, we have made important investments in the border region. His Administration has consistently supported investments in personnel, technology, equipment and infrastructure to improve the speed and security of travelers and goods entering and exiting the United States. Most recently, the Vice President traveled to Mexico City to launch a U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue to continue the vital relationship between our two countries.
Throughout this week’s discussion, one clear, resounding message emerged: commonsense immigration reform is crucial to the economic success of border communities, and of the nation as a whole. The Senate’s bill represents the best chance to fix our broken immigration system, and key provisions would have significant and lasting benefits for the Southwest border region.
For example, the bill would improve efficiency at land ports of entry and decrease wait times for border crossings by adding nearly 3,500 new Customs and Border Protection Officers to the Department of Homeland Security, bringing the total number to the highest staffing level in history.
It would also bolster tourism to the U.S. and contribute to the continued growth of the travel industry by improving visa and foreign visitor processing. In the agricultural sector, the bill would ensure a dependable, stable workforce by providing an opportunity for current farm workers to earn citizenship and create new avenues for employers to hire workers, which will benefit many workers and employers in border states.
It would also provide a path to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows; 4.5 million of whom are living and working in border states.
Whether you live in the Southwest or any other part of this great nation, you have a stake in the issues facing border communities and the immigration reform debate. Find more information on the impact of commonsense immigration reform here, or read the fact sheet about the economic impact of immigration reform for Southwest border communities