The Ebola virus outbreak has wreaked havoc on several West African countries and has threatened the United States. During this time, there have been numerous questions as to how the virus can be stopped from becoming more of a danger to the American people. The United States has federal government agencies and military personnel helping the stricken countries, and volunteers from numerous non-profits are doing humanitarian work to help the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
But, to protect our security, we must stop Ebola at its source. I’ve been advocating for President Obama to suspend issuing visas to people from the West African nations. Last week, I led a group of colleagues from the Senate Judiciary Committee asking the President “to immediately cease issuing visas to persons of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and to consider expanding this ban to other countries that may not have standards in place to properly screen travelers entering the United States.”
Since March, between 6,000 and 7,000 visas were approved for people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In fact, the first Ebola patient in the United States was in the country on a tourist visa.
I’ve been hearing from Iowans about a travel ban, and most of the calls and emails coming into my office have advocated for a ban. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, two-thirds of the people polled backed restrictions on individuals traveling to the United States from countries with an Ebola virus outbreak. Any suspension of visas issued in the stricken countries should accommodate for individuals performing humanitarian or medical work.
More than 30 countries have already declared travel bans. We’re a step behind. It’s time to put the United States a step ahead.