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Cornyn, McCaul Want Ebola Screening at Dallas & Houston Airports

Cornyn, McCaul Want Ebola Screening at Dallas & Houston Airports

AUSTIN, Texas — On Friday Texas Senator John Cornyn and Representative Michael McCaul sent a letter to R. Gil Kerlikowske, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner, asking for more information about the agency’s plans for enhanced screening procedures for Ebola. Cornyn and McCaul asked for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to be added to the list of five airports previously designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week for enhanced screening. McCaul will also host a House Homeland Security Committee hearing at DFW this afternoon to discuss the government response to the Ebola threat.

This is the second letter that Cornyn, the second most powerful Republican in the Senate, has sent to Kerlikowske this month regarding Ebola. An exclusive report by Breitbart Texas’ Managing Director Brandon Darby earlier this month revealed a leaked CBP report showing that, since the beginning of the year, thousands of travelers from Ebola-affected West African countries had been allowed to enter the United States without any special screening. The federal agent who leaked the report to Darby told him, “The CBP is taking no action to screen individuals entering the U.S. from Ebola-stricken nations. We are doing nothing. All we are doing is asking authorities in nations with Ebola to stick a thermometer in the mouths of people boarding planes. That does nothing to keep Americans safe from Ebola.” 

As a result of Darby’s article, Cornyn sent a letter to Kerlikowske demanding more information about the CBP’s Ebola screening procedures. 

Even the enhanced screening procedures being implemented at select American airports are not a complete fail-safe against Ebola. As Breitbart Texas’ Kristin Tate reported yesterday, “Ebola symptoms may take up to 21 days to appear after an individual becomes infected with the virus,” so “the new screening methods offer no way to prevent individuals with Ebola, but whom are not showing symptoms, from coming to the United States.”

The full text of Cornyn and McCaul’s letter is below:

October 10, 2014
 
R. Gil Kerlikowske
Commissioner
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20229
 
Dear Commissioner Kerlikowske,
 
We are writing about the decision by the Department of Homeland Security to provide enhanced screening to passengers from the Ebola-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
 
As you may know, Texas is home to both Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) where a combined 15.6 million international passengers visited in 2013.  Neither airport has been designated for enhanced screening.  Because those traveling from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia  can transit to the United States from many other countries, we have concerns that the current decision to screen only at five airports may not adequately protect Americans and others traveling to America from the Ebola virus.
 
Therefore, we request that you provide answers to the following questions:

(1) According the Administration, the enhanced screening will take place at five airports that receive 94 percent of the passengers from the three affected countries.  Where do the other 6 percent arrive? Will other major international airports be designated for enhanced screening procedures and additional resources if this limited initiative does not effectively mitigate against entry of potentially infected passengers?

(2) How many from those Ebola-affected countries enter the United States through other ports of entry, such as sea ports and land border stations? 

(3) What other Ebola-related measures are being taken at other vulnerable port environments, particularly at high traffic land border ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border?  If none, why? Will U.S. Border Patrol apply enhanced screening procedures to those apprehended between land border ports of entry?

(4) Please explain the tracking system in place for those traveling from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone to the U.S.  How are you working with other countries that have connecting flights from West Africa to the U.S. to ensure an adequate screening process? 

(5) What passenger travel documentation do Customs and Border Protection Officers inspect when a passenger arrives in the U.S.?  Is documentation other than the origin and connection of the passenger available for inspection?

We ask that you consider adding IAH and DFW to the list of airports performing enhanced screening. 
 
Thank you for your attention to this matter.  We look forward to a prompt reply. 

###

Photo courtesy of the Texas Tribune Festival.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.

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