Lawmakers who wanted a travel ban from the three West African countries hardest hit by Ebola aren’t satisfied with the Department of Homeland Security’s new travel restrictions announced Tuesday.
The new measures, which go into effect today, require travelers originating from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to land at New York’s JFK, Newark, Dulles, Atlanta or Chicago.
Those airports implemented last week implemented “secondary screening and added protocols, including having their temperature taken, before they can be admitted into the United States.”
“We are working closely with the airlines to implement these restrictions with minimal travel disruption. If not already handled by the airlines, the few impacted travelers should contact the airlines for rebooking, as needed,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.
“We currently have in place measures to identify and screen anyone at all land, sea and air ports of entry into the United States who we have reason to believe has been present in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the preceding 21 days… We are continually evaluating whether additional restrictions or added screening and precautionary measures are necessary to protect the American people and will act accordingly.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the new procedures “strengthen the measures that are in place to protect the American public because it ensures that individuals who are traveling on commercial airlines to the United States are funneled to these five airports where there is personnel available to pull them aside and ensure that they get proper screening before entering this country.”
“You’ll recall that there are other measures that are in place, too,” Earnest added. “They are given information about Ebola — what signs they should be on the lookout for in terms of symptoms; their contact information is also collected so that if there’s a need to reach them on short notice, that that can be done as well.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said the DHS plan “simply doesn’t go far enough.”
“I continue to believe that the best approach is a temporary suspension on all travel visas for those traveling to the United States from Ebola-stricken countries,” Blunt said.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) maintained that the new rules are “not going to protect us.”
“What this policy does, what it provides is what we call the hospital gown coverage. Their goal at the White House is just to make you think you are covered, when actually you’re exposed from areas you don’t see,” Gohmert told Fox.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), though, said what the administration is doing is “still the best solution, because if you go to a travel ban, as some are advocating, then you get people really going to ground, really trying to evade any kind of testing.”
“And then I think you get people coming into the country surreptitiously and potentially spreading the virus if they have it,” Schiff told MSNBC. “So I think it’s the best option, it’s the one that I think uniformly health care experts are advising the president to undertake. And we should want the president to listen to the experts rather than listen to some hyperbole. So I think this is the right step.”
“But the White House also is sensibly saying they’re gonna keep an eye on things, and if things need to change, they’ll be prepared to do it.”