October 30, 2009

Kerry Applauds End of Discriminatory Travel Ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, today applauded the long overdue enactment of his legislation by the Obama Administration to finally end a travel ban that prevented those with HIV from entering the United States.

Since 1987, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) contained a provision to bar HIV positive individuals from travelling or immigrating to the US, including HIV positive doctors and experts, as well as refugees seeking asylum. No scientific evidence supported the ban as effective for disease control or to curb costs to the public health care system.

"Today a discriminatory travel and immigration ban has gone the way of the dinosaur and we're glad it's finally extinct. It sure took too long to get here," said Sen. Kerry. "We've now removed one more hurdle in our fight against AIDS, and it's long overdue for people living with HIV who battle against stigma and bigotry day in and day out."

"At long last, our nation's unjust policy of excluding HIV-positive visitors and immigrants has ended," said Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. "We applaud the leadership of our allies in Congress, especially Senator Kerry, and of President Obama and Secretary Sebelius in bringing this discriminatory chapter of our history to a close."

"People living with HIV will no longer be pointlessly barred from this country," said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. "We are proud to have been part of a tremendous coalition, including Senator Kerry, former Senator Gordon Smith, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who have worked tirelessly to repeal this ban. Every day, Immigration Equality hears from individuals and families who have been separated because of the ban, with no benefit to the public health. Now, those families can be reunited, and the United States can put its mouth where its money is: ending the stigma that perpetuates HIV transmission, supporting science, and welcoming those who seek to build a life in this country."

In 2008, the Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation Kerry co-authored with former Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) to lift the statutory travel and immigration ban as part of the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) reauthorization.