Beatriz Pascual Macias
Washington, July 9 (EFE). – The White House made it clear today that it is in no hurry to open its borders to travelers from Europe or China despite the high rates of vaccination in those regions, a decision that frustrates many economic sectors, such as tourism and aviation.
While the US allows entry to travelers from the rest of the American continent – with the exception of Brazil – European or Chinese tourists are still unable to enter the country.
And despite pressures from multiple economic sectors or the fact that regions like the European Union have already opened up their countries to Americans, Washington is resisting reciprocity.
At a press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki today acknowledged domestic and international “frustration”, but insisted that the priority of US President Joe Biden’s government is to protect the health of its citizens from viruses and their mutations.
“Of course we want families to come together, bring people back together and people can travel, but I have nothing to do with deadlines,” Psaki said.
opaque dump process
The White House has been deliberating for weeks about these restrictions, but the process has been very opaque.
In June, it announced the creation of working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom to agree on criteria that would allow the borders to reopen, but at the moment there are no decisions and it has not gone beyond the criteria being considered for travelers who want to enter the US
According to Sacchi, health experts play a key role in the “task teams” and Biden will make a decision regarding public health.
Currently, the restrictions affect the 26 European countries in the Schengen area, as well as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, China, Iran, South Africa and India.
With the onset of the pandemic, in early 2020, then US President Donald Trump (2017-2021) vetoed indefinitely the entry of some travelers from those regions into the country, but two days before leaving the White House lifted restrictions. .
Biden reimposed it once in power and expanded it to include South Africa and India, which were not on Trump’s list.
For travelers from all of these countries, there is only one way to enter and that is by obtaining a “National Interest Exemption” (NIE), which is a special entry permit granted only on specific humanitarian, economic, health or national security reasons.
The only flexibility that was was to extend the validity of the NIE to one year from the date of its issuance.
The restrictions imposed by these countries do not affect US citizens, immigrants with a permanent residence permit, and aliens who are married or have direct family from the United States or have a permanent residence permit.
More pressure for Biden
In recent weeks, and in the absence of progress, the Biden government has come under greater pressure from sectors such as tourism and aviation, as well as from members of Congress, who say their countries’ economies have been negatively affected.
Specifically, on the seventh day, a group of 75 Democratic and Republican lawmakers sent Biden a letter asking him to raise his veto, especially for travelers from Canada and the United Kingdom.
This week, a group led by the American Travel Association that includes hotels, casinos and airlines asked the White House to end travel restrictions before July 15 due to their impact on the economy.
According to their data, the restrictions cost the US economy $1.5 billion in revenue each week from Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union alone, which would be enough to employ 10,000 people.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which includes 290 global airlines and focuses more than 80% of the world’s air traffic, has also repeatedly asked Biden to open borders to countries that do not pose a risk.
Contradictions and ‘illegitimate’ standards
Speaking to Efe, IATA Vice President and Head of Member-Foreign Relations in North America, Doug Lavigne, called the restrictions in place “frustrating” and “somewhat irrational” because they do not obey any logic regarding virus infection or vaccination levels.
For example, the United States allows entry to travelers from some Latin American countries such as Jamaica, Guatemala and Paraguay where vaccination does not reach 3%, but it prevents tourists from the United Kingdom from entering despite the fact that 51% of the population is vaccinated or from Spain, with immunity Approximately 44%.
The European Union listed the United States in June among the countries allowed for travel or essentials. This allows, for example, an American who has been vaccinated or with a negative test to travel to Spain. But not the other way around.
A decision that continues to stoke blisters, which is why the European Union insists on asking for “reciprocity,” as it did last June 26 by the Community’s Executive Vice President, Margaritis Schinas. . “The ball is now in his court,” he added.
Another paradoxical aspect is the loophole that allows travelers from China or Europe to enter the United States if they have spent the last 14 days in a country that is not on the list of countries with travel restrictions.
Despite everything, when asked by Effie, the State Department spokesperson reiterated the official line today: “We have no changes to announce at this time.” EFE
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