By Joe Guzzardi
October 9, 2014
In New York’s Staten Island, there’s a neighborhood called Little Liberia. Even though it’s 4,500 miles from where Ebola has ravaged large swaths of West Africa, residents live in fear. Staten Island has the largest Liberian population outside of Africa. Concerns about Liberians coming to New York to visit family or friends have sparked worries that some may carry the deadly disease which has killed more than 3,000 in Africa and infected at least twice as many. The London-based charity Save the Children estimates that in Sierra Leone alone more than five people per hour are stricken with Ebola.
Because of the federal temporary protected status program (TPS), Liberians have been coming to the U.S. in growing numbers for a decade. TPS grants the supposedly temporary right to live in the U.S. to foreign nationals who are allegedly fleeing war-torn countries. However, as evidenced by the continuous presence of Liberians and other opportunistic nationals from Central America and the Middle East, temporary means permanent.
In Liberia’s case, the government first gave them TPS because of a civil war that started in 1991. Although the war ended in 2003, TPS has been reauthorized several times. As a result of Ebola, no Liberian in the U.S. will be sent home. But Liberians who want to come to the U.S. can still get visas. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola diagnosed case in the U.S. and who died in a Dallas hospital earlier this week, received a non-immigrant visa. In 2013, the State Department authorized more than 3,500 non-immigrant visas to Liberians, up from the 2009 total of 1,300.
Ebola could arrive in the U.S indirectly, too. Marine Corp four-star General John Kelly told a National Defense University audience that if Ebola reaches Central America, then it would be “Katie bar the door,” in terms of infected migrants rushing to the U.S. for health care. Kelly, who witnessed long lines of people at the border this summer who said they were Liberians, predicted that it will be impossible to limit Ebola to West Africa.
The Obama administration’s response to the Ebola-spawned health crisis has been tepid at best. Federal visa issuance policies remain unchanged. Duncan, for example, was single, unemployed, had recently lived outside his country of birth, and had a sister in the U.S. Any one of those four could have disqualified Duncan, all four should have barred him.
Obama and the immigration agencies have the authority and the responsibility to deny admission to aliens that cannot prove they’re free from communicable diseases, especially potentially fatal ones. Three African countries—Namibia, Kenya and Zambia—have banned travelers from the Ebola-plagued nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The best the Obama administration can come up with, and only under duress, is additional ineffective token screening at five major U.S. airports. About 150 passengers daily will have their temperatures taken. The White House and the Center for Disease Control continue to argue nonsensically that banning travel from Africa would “impede” fighting the disease abroad and exacerbate, not mitigate, the threat to the U.S..
Obama’s first priority must be to protect Americans. Until a cure can be found for Ebola, the three-step solution, all easily doable, is to first stop issuing visas to residents of African countries that are at risk, second, ban travel from Africa, and third secure the southern border which provides easy access for unlawful entry not only to critically ill aliens but also to others including terrorists.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been nationally syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]