The Obama administration is coming under bipartisan pressure from Texas lawmakers to include airports in this “ground zero” state among those getting extra screening procedures for Ebola.
After the death of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas this week, the White House announced more stringent screening procedures for incoming international travelers at five airports: JFK, Dulles, Newark, O’Hare and Hartsfield.
Press secretary Josh Earnest said these locations were chosen for the “additional layer of screening” because they “are the destination of 94 percent of individuals who travel to the United States from the three countries that are currently affected by Ebola right now.”
At a House Homeland Security Committee field hearing in Dallas today, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said “there was an error made by not designating Bush Intercontinental Airport as one of the sites to have this enhanced screening.”
“I’ve made a request to the president, to the secretary, and to the Centers for Disease Control, and I hope that this will be responded to. Again, this is a red flag. This is not hysteria. It’s based upon the travel that comes into Bush Intercontinental Airport,” Jackson Lee said. “Let me also say that it is not West Africa, and all of us must be restrained in how we define it. It’s particular countries such as Guinea, Liberia at this time, and Sierra Leone.”
The committee chairman, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske today requesting that Bush Intercontinental and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport be included among the enhanced screening locations.
Last year, more than 15 million passengers flew into both airports. Duncan flew through Dulles before arriving in Dallas.
“Because those traveling from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia can transit to the United States from many other countries, we have concerns that the current decision to screen only at five airports may not adequately protect Americans and others traveling to America from the Ebola virus,” McCaul and Cornyn wrote.
“According the Administration, the enhanced screening will take place at five airports that receive 94 percent of the passengers from the three affected countries. Where do the other 6 percent arrive? Will other major international airports be designated for enhanced screening procedures and additional resources if this limited initiative does not effectively mitigate against entry of potentially infected passengers?”
The lawmakers also asked how many people from Ebola-affected countries enter the United States through other ports of entry, such as sea ports and land border stations.
“What other Ebola-related measures are being taken at other vulnerable port environments, particularly at high traffic land border ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border? If none, why? Will U.S. Border Patrol apply enhanced screening procedures to those apprehended between land border ports of entry?”