Visas: The Ebola Elephant in the Room
While CNN books guests to discuss the minutia of whether latex, nitrile rubber or vinyl and neoprene gloves are best when treating Ebola patients (Erin Burnett October 13) the broader issue of whether West African travel visas should be stopped is dismissed as a pure hypothetical extreme. And while CDC Director Thomas Frieden suggests that he needs to “rethink Ebola protocol” he refuses to consider travel restrictions, despite a new Washington Post-ABC News poll showing 67% of the public support such a ban.In addition to the American public — usually leading the common sense curve — a growing number of lawmakers are urging immediate restrictions including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and notably, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas).The number of U.S. visitor visas granted to the Ebola-stricken countries has been rising sharply at the same time the disease is multiplying at exponential rates, representing a volatile combination that merits visa restrictions. In 2013, the U.S. issued 3,500 visas to Liberians — a country with more than half of the 8,914 reported cases — and 13,000 visas total between Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. This week, the World Health Organization has released dire news, upping the fatality estimate from 50 percent to 70 percent and estimating there will be 10,000 new cases of Ebola in West Africa by December of this year.Why no action? One clue might be hidden in the CDC director’s recent statement that, “sealing the border simply creates public distrust.” Mr. Director, no one is talking about “sealing the border” in the context of this current crisis. Americans simply want to limit the spread of a deadly disease and put in place a limited travel ban from high-risk areas only. Why the hyperbole? Perhaps the Obama administration is not letting a crisis go to waste, once again. Refusing to consider common sense restrictions to those who may be inadmissible is a way to avoid contradicting the utopia they tell us is open borders. After all, for the Obama administration it’s just fine that 12 million illegal aliens reside in the U.S without having had health care screening. Why worry about 3,500 from Liberia? In 1964, President Kennedy observed, “there is, of course, a legitimate argument for some limitation upon immigration.” Serving the public interest during a potential health crisis by imposing modest travel bans is a very legitimate argument. More importantly it’s a core responsibility of government.