July 15, 2008
Last Friday, the U.S. Senate voted on a cloture motion to proceed to debate the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which includes a provision that would repeal the long-standing ban on individuals infected with the HIV/AIDS virus from visiting or immigrating to the United States.
Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) proposed that the repeal provision (section 305) be attached to the bill (S. 2731) during the committee mark-up earlier this year on April 15th, but the good news is that Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has offered an amendment to restore the ban. This amendment needs all the support it can get, so your calls to your Senators are vital! A vote is expected as early as this Wednesday, July 16th.
Reasons your Senators Should Support the Sessions Amendment to Preserve the Ban on HIV/AIDS-infected travelers to the United States:
1. Everyone with HIV/AIDS inside the United States is eligible for free treatment at taxpayers' expense. Under a little-known interpretation of the Ryan White CARE Act, noncitizens, including illegal aliens, are entitled to "HIV/AIDS-related care and treatment, immunizations for children, non-Medicaid funded public health services, tuberculosis screening and treatment, and testing and treatment of communicable diseases."
2. This treatment incentive will entice and encourage more HIV-infected people to flock to the United States. There are an estimated 33 million people in the world with HIV/AIDS. At a time when politicians are touting "more affordable health care," this certainly is a sure-fire way to drive costs upward! The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 4,300 immigrants with HIV/AIDS would enter the U.S. annually by 2013.
3. CBO estimates the cost of the AIDS travel repeal to be $83 million over the next ten years. The anticipated costs factor in the number of additional immigrants that would result from lifting the statutory ban on HIV-positive individuals from being eligible for visas or admission into the United States.
Do not be fooled by the timing of this attempt to repeal the HIV/AIDS travelers ban! Former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) died this past 4th of July. Senator Helms was the chief sponsor of the travelers' ban, which was instituted back in 1986. Senator Helms was our top conservative leader in Congress for 30 years. He always adhered to principle despite the pressures that often surround those with political power, and his actions should serve as an example to his Republican successors today! Please help to preserve a part of his legacy by telling your Senators to support the Sessions amendment today!
A vote on the Sessions amendment is expected as soon as this Wednesday, July 16th. 60 votes will be needed to pass this amendment and restore the travel ban. Please call and write to your Senators' offices and let them know you expect them to vote YES on the Sessions amendment!