It looks like efforts to block full-scale reform of immigration policy succeeded. The bill's opponents had all the subtlety of a Quentin Tarantino movie, but their "Kill the Bill" message registered with senators leery of getting on the wrong side of an ill-informed but emotional constituency -- including two Republicans who sponsored it in the first place. The Senate failed to close debate on the bill, which effectively means it will never come to vote.
But on the theory that half a loaf is better than none, some of the immigration bill's sponsors should consider folding some of their proposals into new legislation recently proposed by Sen. Byron Dorgan, the North Dakota Democrat who, along with Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, proposed the Travel Promotion Act of 2007.
The Dorgan bill - S. 1661 - would create a new travel promotion campaign funded equally by a fee on overseas travelers and contributions from the U.S. travel industry. The campaign would be run by an independent, non-profit corporation. In addition to promoting the United States as a travel destination, it would explain U.S. security policies and improve visa/entry practices.
The Travel Promotion Act was approced by the the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation yesterday. It includes provisions that would:
- authorize the State Department to explore visa interviews by videoconference where appropriate;
- authorize the State Department to explore mobile visa operations where appropriate and secure;
- require the State Department to report what it needs to meet the 30-day standard for visa interview wait times;
- authorize a "Model Ports" program at the nation’s top 20 international arrival airports;
- authorize 200 more Customs and Border Protection officers at these top 20 airports; and
- authorize the creation of an international registered traveler program to expedite the secure screening of arriving travelers.
The proposed act is gathering broad bi-partisan support. A call to your senator would help.