Friday, October 31, 2014

Migration Policy Institute: Ebola Outbreak Rekindles Debate on Restricting Admissions to the United States on Health Grounds

It seems fair to say that Ebola has been in the news.  The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, with three cases diagnosed in the United States, has generated tremendous public fear and anxiety in the United States and other countries. The Obama administration has restricted air travel from West Africa to five airports with enhanced screening, amid calls for a complete travel ban. This piece by released by the Migration Policy Institute examines the use of U.S. immigration controls to halt the spread of disease.

As discussed in the article, immigration restrictions have been used to protect the United States from disease and pandemics since the enactment of the 1891 Immigration Act. That law established for the first time that foreign nationals could be denied entry into the United States on health grounds; the list of health-related grounds has been periodically modified over the years. Currently, under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), health-related grounds of exclusion and inadmissibility apply to those seeking entry to the United States: 1) with a communicable disease of public health significance; 2) without documentation of a required set of immunizations; 3) with a physical or mental disorder associated with dangerous behaviors; or 4) who are drug addicts.

The article questions whether a "close the border" approach to Ebola will work in modern times with international travel commonplace.


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