White House stands firm against Ebola travel ban

The White House is unmoved by calls from vulnerable Senate Democrats to implement an Ebola travel ban, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Monday.

Rhodes argued a ban on travelers from the three West African countries at the center of the epidemic wouldn’t work and would put more people in danger.


“I think what the American people want is for their government to do what is going to work,” Rhodes said in an interview with MSNBC. “There's no ideology here. The president wants solutions that will work in containing the spread of Ebola, protecting the American people, and again, also containing the spread in West Africa.”

The White House spokesman said “the professionals who know how to deal with these issues” believed a travel ban “could actually endanger more people.”

“If you have a travel ban in place, it drives people underground instead of traveling through existing protocols that allows us to screen for Ebola, they seek to avoid detection,” he said.

A growing number of lawmakers have called for the ban, including some Democrats in close Senate races.

Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn told The Washington Post on Friday she supports a “temporary travel ban with the exceptions of our medical and military personnel in those affected areas in West Africa.”

Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (D-N.C.) reversed course and said that a ban would be “a prudent step the president can take to protect the American people, and I believe he should do so immediately.”

And Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said non-U.S. citizens should not be allowed to travel from affected countries, while Americans who visited nations grappling with the Ebola crisis should be subject to intensified screening procedures. 

Republican lawmakers have said they plan to introduce legislation requiring such a ban when Congress returns from its recess.