- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2014

Republican senators told President Obama on Friday to stop issuing visas to travelers from West African countries affected by Ebola, saying each of those is a potential entry point for the deadly disease to get into the U.S.

The seven senators, led by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said more than 6,000 visas were issued to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea between March 1 and Sept. 27, which give those persons permission to travel to the U.S. Visas are still being issued as of mid-October, too.

“Dismissing a travel ban or a moratorium on visa issuances sends a signal that you’re not serious about containing the outbreak and preventing infections of individuals on U.S. soil,” the GOP senators said.

They went on to say Mr. Obama should also use his powers under existing immigration law to prohibit any immigrants from affected countries from being able to enter the U.S., which could prohibit those already awarded visas from entering.

The Ebola outbreak in Texas stemmed from a Liberian man who came to the U.S. on a visa. He did not show symptoms of the disease when he traveled, but developed them once in the U.S., becoming contagious and infecting two health care workers so far.

On Thursday, Mr. Obama said he isn’t outright opposed to a travel ban but for now health officials tell him it’s not the best way to halt the spread of Ebola. Centers for Disease Control chief Dr. Tom Frieden told Congress on Thursday that imposing a ban will only send would-be travelers scrambling to avoid airports checks, while if the U.S. still allows them to come legally they will go through regular channels where they can be monitored.

Republicans mocked that logic, saying it is akin to inviting the disease into the U.S. because it’s easier to watch it here.

At the White House on Friday, spokesman Josh Earnest said the government’s testing isn’t designed to catch those with Ebola, but rather to catch those who are already showing symptoms.

“And thus far, zero individuals with symptoms of Ebola have entered the United States of America,” he said. “The bottom line is that is the reason that we believe this is the right policy.”

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