Amid the spread of Ebola in the U.S. from a 42-year-old Liberian who died after arriving in Dallas from his disease-stricken nation on a commercial airliner through a routine visa process, outrage is growing that President Obama has not shut down travel from West Africa.
Rep. Edward Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed “deep concern” in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that visas were still being issued to nationals from the three most affected countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“It is my understanding that approximately 100 applicants for visas are visiting these three U.S. Embassies each day. Of course, once these individuals are issued a visa by the embassy, they are free to travel to the United States,” he said.
“I would strongly encourage the Department of State to immediately institute a temporary suspension of consular services – particularly the issuance of visas – for non-U.S. nationals…. This is a reasonable and immediately implementable containment measure that may help mitigate the risk [of Ebola],” he wrote.
Royce’s view appears to be in line with most constituents, as a new poll shows 82 percent want to quarantine anyone who recently has traveled to the stricken region, and 66 percent would block entry.
Breitbart News reported the Department of Homeland Security even has been “expediting” visas from the “Ebola countries.”
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website said its “immigration relief measures” would include changes or extensions of nonimmigrant status for someone in the U.S., expedited adjudication of requests from students, expedited processing of petitions for immediate relatives and more.
“In short, the USCIS has been waiving fees, expediting the immigration process, and allowing extensions of visas for anyone coming from the three designated Ebola-stricken countries, provided that they are in the United States,” the report said.
Commentator Katie Pavlich at TownHall.com said, “Not only is the Ebola crisis continuing to degrade, but the optics of how the White House has handled the situation are getting worse by the day too.”
She said the White House “has refused to even put travel restrictions on the table as the crisis in West Africa continues.”
“Considering the administration has been encouraging more travel, it’s no wonder travel restrictions aren’t being considered,” she wrote. “CDC Director Tom Frieden said … during testimony on Capitol Hill that his first interest is protecting Americans. If Frieden really means what he said, the folks over at DHS don’t have the same priority and clearly aren’t on the same page.”
Breitbart News said said it’s understandable that many in Ebola-affected countries would be lured to the U.S. by its advanced medical care.
The Washington Post reported the number of visas issued to Liberians by the U.S. has spiked, with about 3,500 granted last year. Another 10,000 were given to citizens of Guinea and Sierra Leone.
CDC Director Tom Frieden has admitted that from 100 to 150 people from the Ebola region are entering the U.S. each day.
He reported the figure to a congressional committee:
Royce was unhappy with the status quo.
“As the administration works to contain the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic in West Africa and mitigate the risk of further transmission into the United States, every reasonable containment option should be pursued urgently,” he told Kerry. “This includes measures to enhance health system preparedness in the United States, but most critically to contain the outbreak at its source.”