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Hirono, Inhofe Lead Call on DHS to Include Israel in Global Entry Program

February 27, 2018, 8:47 AM HST
* Updated February 27, 8:50 AM
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Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) led the full Senate in urging the Department of Homeland Security to expedite Israel’s full membership in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, the Senators emphasized that Israel’s full membership and reciprocal privileges for Americans would grow the U.S. economy and strengthen national security.

Expansion of Global Entry to Israel will promote even closer security cooperation with the Israeli authorities, which can help direct CBP resources to higher-risk, unknown travelers and enforcement,” wrote the Senators. “As 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of U.S.-Israel diplomatic relations, extending full Global Entry membership and reciprocity for Americans would be a fitting gesture of our continued efforts to enhance the security and economic partnership between our two nations. We strongly support Israel’s membership in CBP’s Global Entry program and urge the efforts towards this goal be accelerated as much as possible to help ensure the best travel experience to strengthen the bonds between our two great democracies.”

“Sen. Hirono once again shows that she is the U.S. Senate’s champion of global travel for all people with her leading the effort to add Israel to the Global Entry Program,” said George D. Szigeti, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority president and CEO. Her indefatigable support of this travel-friendly program is making trips to the U.S. a more inviting experience and giving international travelers more reason to explore all that our nation has to offer, including the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. We thank Sen. Hirono for her dedication to support the travel industry and all the people in Hawaii and nationwide who depend on tourism’s success.”

“The U.S. already has a strong economic relationship with Israel with more than 2,500 U.S. firms located in the country, according to an estimate by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” said Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President & CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara. “Israel’s inclusion in the Global Entry Program can only serve to strengthen this relationship, while maintaining the highest standards of security. My visit to Tel-Aviv last year as part of a U.S.-Israel business initiative reaffirmed the strong economic and commercial relationship we have with Israel which spans a wide variety of industries including IT, bio-tech, health care solutions, energy, pharmaceuticals and cyber-security, making American companies more competitive and profitable globally.”

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The Global Entry Program allows expedited screening for trusted travelers visiting the United States, including TSA PreCheck privileges. Israel currently participates in the Global Entry program on a limited pilot basis as part of a 2012 bilateral agreement, and is working toward becoming a full member. Senator Hirono is a longtime advocate of expanding the Global Entry and other trusted traveler programs to strengthen national security and expand international markets.

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Th full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Secretary Nielsen:

We write to you in support of Israel’s participation in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Global Entry program. Expanding Global Entry’s expedited clearance process to pre-approved visitors from Israel, one of the United States’ closest allies, will help strengthen our partnership while improving our ability to screen potential threats against the U.S. homeland. We note that the Israeli government is currently participating in a limited Global Entry pilot program pursuant to a 2012 bilateral agreement and is taking steps internally to become a full member. Therefore, we urge you to expedite its full membership and reciprocity for Americans as soon as Israel is ready to join the program.

Leisure and business travelers from Israel have made a significant contribution to the U.S. economy and job creation. According to the U.S. Travel Association, every $1 million spent by international visitors has directly supported the creation of 7.9 jobs in the U.S. travel industry. In 2016, our country welcomed approximately 410,000 Israeli visitors, who spent $1.7 billion, ranking Israel among the top 25 largest markets for U.S. travel and tourism exports according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. However, analysis by the U.S. Travel Association indicates that travel from Israel to the U.S. has recently been on the decline. With the U.S. currently capturing just 6.7 percent of the outbound Israeli travel market, as a country, we can do more to attract these visitors and Global Entry membership is an important way to welcome them.

Israel’s membership in Global Entry would not only provide its passport holders a smoother visit to the U.S. but would also help to make our country safer by enhancing bilateral law enforcement cooperation. Only after rigorous scrutiny and clearance by both countries will approved Israeli travelers be extended the facility of expedited entry into the United States through self-service kiosks at U.S. airports. These procedures enhance security-related information sharing with the United States at a time when the threats we face are increasingly global in nature. Expansion of Global Entry to Israel will promote even closer security cooperation with the Israeli authorities, which can help direct CBP resources to higher-risk, unknown travelers and enforcement.

As 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of U.S.-Israel diplomatic relations, extending full Global Entry membership and reciprocity for Americans would be a fitting gesture of our continued efforts to enhance the security and economic partnership between our two nations. We strongly support Israel’s membership in CBP’s Global Entry program and urge the efforts towards this goal be accelerated as much as possible to help ensure the best travel experience to strengthen the bonds between our two great democracies. We also request an update on our engagement with your Israeli counterparts on this issue.

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