Rep. Greg Stanton’s Southwest Tourism Expansion Act moved a significant step closer to becoming law today as it advanced as part of the House’s Fiscal Year 2021 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill. Stanton’s bill would create a pilot program to allow certain visitors from Mexico who already have permission to enter the United States to travel throughout the state of Arizona.

Stanton first introduced H.R. 5405 in December 2019 alongside a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Sen. Martha McSally. The bipartisan effort would create a pilot program in response to current law, which limits Mexican nationals with a valid Border Crossing Card from traveling outside a designated travel zone without applying for an additional federal I-94 form and paying a fee. Currently, visitors can travel between 25 and 75 miles into the state, depending on which port they enter through—Stanton’s pilot program would expand the travel zone statewide.

“Arizona benefits in so many ways from a strong relationship with Mexico—inviting our Mexican neighbors to explore and invest more across our entire state will strengthen those ties,” said Stanton. “Especially in this time when our tourism and recreation industries have taken a catastrophic hit, we need to think ahead and be creative about we will help those sectors rebuild and reach new audiences. This pilot program is a first step in doing so.”

By extending the zone of travel to the entire state, Mexican citizens would be permitted to travel to popular tourist destinations in Arizona, including the Phoenix metro area, Sedona, the Grand Canyon and the Native American reservations.

Earlier this year, Stanton asked Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and Ranking Member Chuck Fleischmann to include the bipartisan measure in the appropriations bill.

As Congress works to finalize funding for the federal government for the next fiscal year, Stanton will continue to work to ensure the final funding bill includes this provision.