Not only is the Ebola crisis continuing to degrade, but the optics of how the White House has handled the situation are getting worse by the day too.
A new report published at Breitbart shows the Obama administration started expediting visas from West Africa in August as the Ebola was (and still is) raging out of control with a 70 percent mortality rate. According to the report, the man who died from Ebola in a Texas hospital after visiting Liberia, had his visa approved in the same month visas were being streamlined.
In short, the USCIS has been waiving fees, expediting the immigration process, and allowing extensions of visas for anyone coming from the three designated Ebola-stricken countries, provided that they are in the United States. The Free Republic blog reported that the law firm of Edward W. Neufville, III, LLC, a Washington, D.C. area immigration firm, added a section to their website two days after the USCIS announcement, with more details about how these relief measures would work, including extensions of the time that the foreign national could remain in the United States, additional work permit opportunities, and even forgiveness for failure to appear at required interviews or submit required evidence. According to the Neufville firm, the new USCIS policies mean that "[i]ndividuals from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea currently in the United States may apply for an extension or change in status due to the Ebola Outbreak, even if their request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired." Otherwise stated, this means that someone from one of those countries who illegally overstayed their visa can now apply for an extension, or someone who arrived illegally can apply to get legal status.
Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died from Ebola earlier this month, had traveled to the United States after his visa was approved in August, the same month that USCIS announced the new relief measures.
Here is a breakdown of what was happening with the Ebola crisis in August courtesy of Haaretz:
August 2: A U.S. missionary physician infected with Ebola in Liberia is flown to Atlanta in the United States for treatment.
August 5: A second U.S. missionary infected with Ebola is flown from Liberia to Atlanta for treatment. Aug. 8: WHO declares Ebola "international public health emergency."
August 12: WHO says death toll has topped 1,000, approves use of unproven drugs or vaccines. A Spanish priest with Ebola dies in a Madrid hospital.
August 15: MSF says the epidemic will take about six months to control.
August 20: Security forces in Monrovia fire shots, tear gas to disperse crowd trying to break out of quarantine, killing a teenager.
August 21: The two U.S. missionary aid workers treated in Atlanta are released from the hospital free of the virus.
August 24: Democratic Republic of Congo declares Ebola outbreak, apparently separate from larger epidemic. An infected British medical worker is flown home from Sierra Leone for treatment.
August 28: WHO puts death toll at above 1,550, warns outbreak could infect more than 20,000. Aug. 29: Senegal reports first confirmed Ebola case.
The White House has refused to even put travel restrictions on the table as the crisis in West Africa continues. Considering the administration has been encouraging more travel, it's no wonder travel restrictions aren't being considered. CDC Director Tom Frieden said yesterday during testimony on Capitol Hill that his first interest is protecting Americans. If Frieden really meant what he said,the folks over at DHS don't have the same priority and clearly aren't on the same page.
These revelations prompt a whole new set of questions about how the Obama administration is handling this situation and leads one to question whether the government is really doing anything real to protect Americans from a deadly disease. At a time when officials knew Ebola was killing thousands in Africa, they invited more people potentially exposed to that disease, including Thomas Duncan, to come into the United States. At best, this is negligence.