It has been pointed out many times just how large and diverse the chorus of voices who support fixing our broken immigration system has grown as we move closer and closer to a long-lasting solution. There is perhaps no other issue facing our country with so many interests aligned on one side, calling for something to be done. When I sat down this week with business leaders from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, I heard passionate arguments that left me with one dominating impression: We can’t lose.
That is not to say that we don’t have work to do in order to make the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by a bipartisan Senate the law of the land, but, as I told the roundtable in Las Vegas, nothing important ever comes easy. The economic argument for comprehensive immigration reform is as strong as any I’ve heard. The Senate bill will lead to an increase in real GDP of roughly $700 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also estimates it will reduce the federal budget deficit by nearly $850 billion over the next 20 years. It will bring highly-skilled and highly-educated workers to the U.S. to build businesses and create thousands of good jobs for Americans. And it will bring undocumented workers out of the shadows and into the legal economy, helping to put a stop to practices that undercut wages and worsen working conditions for American workers.
With sky-high numbers like these, it’s easy to see why so many in the business community are rallying around the bill.
The leaders I met with in Las Vegas are all well-respected members of the dazzling travel and tourism industry that is the lifeblood of Southern Nevada. One aspect of the Senate immigration bill that isn’t often discussed is how it will encourage more people to visit destinations within our borders by streamlining our visa system and reducing growing wait-times for travelers. That’s important because travel and tourism represent the largest service-export industry in the U.S., setting a record $168.1 billion in exports in 2012 and supporting 7.7 million jobs in the third quarter of that year. And the economic impact and importance of travel and tourism will only continue to grow.
Tourism is a $40 billion industry in Las Vegas, supporting 370,000 jobs. That explains the urgency I heard from these leaders about the need to explain to Congress how important this bill really is. Besides making it easier for travelers to visit, they also told me it will increase the pool of qualified workers they need to take their businesses to the next level.
I like to say that the movement for comprehensive immigration reform must be both a grassroots and a grasstops movement. In Las Vegas, that grasstops movement showed itself to be a compelling force for change with a strong, unified voice that can help us achieve real progress.
I listened carefully. I hope the House of Representatives will do the same.