A growing number of Republicans in Washington, including at least three from South Carolina, are calling for a temporary travel ban from western Africa in response to the Ebola outbreak that has killed thousands there.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott was the latest to do so on Friday, releasing a statement on his website. “It is clear that a temporary travel ban for foreign nationals traveling from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa should be put in place,” he said. “The President has the authority to do so, and we have seen that airport screenings and self-reporting simply are not enough.”
Scott joined South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy in calling for a travel ban. Fellow Congressman Jeff Duncan on Thursday also signed a letter from the House Committee on Homeland Security asking President Obama to suspend travel visas for individuals traveling from Ebola-stricken nations.
Gowdy and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlette signed a letter to the White House making a similar request that the President bar foreign nationals recently in Ebola-ravaged nations from coming to the U.S.
Gowdy said he still supports sending aid and health care workers to afflicted nations, but believes the country is not doing enough to prevent the virus from reaching U.S. shores. “If you know that a disease was, at one point, concentrated in an area, why can you not restrict ingress and egress from that area particularly to the United States and also send your experts to Western Africa to help them contain it?,” he said in an interview with South Carolina Radio Network. “Those two are not mutually exclusive.”
President Obama said Thursday he has no “philosophical objection,” to a travel ban, but believes it would be less effective than the current policy of having airport employees screen each passenger from the region. But he expressed concerns that some travelers may try sneaking into the U.S. through other means to get around the ban, meaning they would not be screened upon their arrival in the States.
But Gowdy disputed that, saying a traveler would still need to rely on their passport, which would show they had been in West Africa. “You are trusting that people who work in airports can read temperature gauges,” he said. “There are lots of really good folks who work at airports. I doubt very seriously you’re going to go see them for your health concerns.”
To this point, a handful of Americans have become infected with Ebola while in Africa. However, only two have become infected inside the U.S. itself — both were nurses treating a man who had recently traveled back to Texas from Liberia.