March 22, 2020

With Tens of Thousands of Americans Still Stranded Abroad by COVID-19, Menendez Calls on Trump to Invoke Extraordinary Measures to Bring them Home

President Trump Should Instruct U.S. Government to Charter Commercial Flights and Plan to Make Military Planes Available to Evacuate Stranded Americans; Calls for Government Assistance for Individuals Trying to Evacuate who May Face Financial Hardship from Additional Costs

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today sent a letter to President Trump urging him to take all necessary steps to provide assistance to the tens of thousands of Americans stranded abroad seeking help to return home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No American should ever have to worry that they might be abandoned abroad by our government. As we work together to confront this unprecedented pandemic, we must provide Americans overseas the support that they need,” wrote the Senator, citing the Administration’s new level 4 travel advisory and the surging number of commercial flights cancellations and border closures.  

As the lead Democrats for Senate Committees with jurisdiction over international policy and consular affairs, the Senator pressed upon the President the urgency to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to help evacuate United States citizens.  

Specifically, the Senator requested the Administration invoke the authorities contained within the Civil Reserve Airfleet (CRAF) readiness program in order to facilitate the chartering of commercial flights to evacuate stranded American citizens. Similarly, they requested the President direct the Department of Defense to consider making U.S. military aircraft available for the same purpose.  

“At a time when U.S. commercial carriers are seeking unprecedented financial assistance from US taxpayers—and while much of the airline fleet is otherwise idle—we would expect that US airlines, including those participating in the CRAF program, will be willing and able to step into the breach and work with the Department of State to provide the necessary support to bring American citizens home,” wrote the Senator.   

A copy of the Senator Menendez’s letter can be found HERE and below.

Mr. President,  

I write today to urge you to take all steps necessary to provide assistance to Americans abroad who wish to return to the United States during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. 

With the State Department having issued a level 4 travel advisory, commercial airlines cancelling numerous flights, and many countries now imposing travel restrictions and border closures, tens of thousands of American citizens are stranded, unable to return to the United States without the direct intervention of their government. 

While I agree in theory that commercial flights options are preferable for all citizens wishing to return, as your administration has argued, that is not a feasible solution as there are insufficient commercial flights available due to the current crisis, especially in countries that have closed their borders. More forceful government action, including an aggressive approach by the State Department in arranging charter flights, invoking Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) authorities to make additional aircraft available for evacuations, and directing the Department of Defense to explore making military aircraft, where appropriate, available for this vital mission are all essential. 

Moreover, individuals who may face financial hardship must be provided with appropriate assistance if they face additional costs to return home. The scope and scale of this unparalleled challenge—and the obligation we owe our fellow citizens—demands an “all of the above” response. 

Furthermore, at a time when U.S. commercial carriers are seeking unprecedented financial assistance from US taxpayers—and while much of the airline fleet is otherwise idle—we would expect that US airlines, including those participating in the CRAF program, will be willing and able to step into the breach and work with the Department of State to provide the necessary support to bring American citizens home. 

Mr. President, no American should ever have to worry that they might be abandoned abroad by our government. As we work together to confront this unprecedented pandemic we must provide Americans overseas the support that they need.  

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