Politics & Government

Sen. Nelson calls for temporary travel restrictions in face of Ebola uncertainty

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Florida’s senior Sen. Bill Nelson said Tuesday it’s time for the U.S. government to consider a temporary suspension of most travel visas issued to individuals in areas hit hardest by Ebola.

Nelson, a Democrat from Orlando, wrote a letter today to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Nelson is a senior member of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees many aspects of international commerce and travel.

“It would seem that another means of reducing the chances of exposure to the virus here at home would be to temporarily suspend unnecessary travel to the United States under existing visas and the issuance of new visas for citizens of countries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies as areas with high rates of infections,” Nelson wrote. Nelson acknowledged the administration already has taken decisive steps to deal with the spread of Ebola, but said a temporary suspension of visas for non-essential travel could help security and health officials from around the globe implement a coordinated and effective response to the deadly disease.

While the issue of instituting some sort of “travel ban” has been floated in recent weeks as the outbreak spread, the White House has been steadfast in opposition. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters “a travel ban is not something that we're currently considering.”

“Considering the changing events and overall magnitude of the situation, it may be time to reexamine the travel issue from the standpoint of visas,” Nelson wrote.