World

Unmarried couples separated by COVID travel ban seek ‘sweetheart’ exemption from Biden

Ever for the reason that coronavirus pandemic shuttered world travel one 12 months in the past, hundreds of Americans have pushed for an exception to U.S. restrictions that will permit single couples separated by borders to reunite.

The restrictions first put in place final March have prevented international nationals from visiting their American companions and fiancés for practically a 12 months. But an organized motion – often called ‘Love is Not Tourism’ – is now pushing the Biden administration to think about an exception for these people, with no clear finish in sight to the pandemic travel bans.

‘Love Is Not Tourism’ made some headway abroad final summer season, efficiently lobbying a number of European governments to create “sweetheart clauses” that allowed international nationals to go to their family members throughout the pandemic.

“We have indeed introduced a clause, love is not tourism – LINT,” Philippe Étienne, France’s ambassador to the United States, mentioned in an interview. “Our government thought it was not fair to prevent people from joining one another.”

Krishni Metivier, a number one American activist within the motion, labored together with her companion within the Czech Republic on a marketing campaign to persuade his authorities to undertake a sweetheart clause – an exemption it carried out within the fall.

She has since turned her consideration to advocacy within the United States, organizing a “Love Is Not Tourism Day” in December and writing a letter to President Joe Biden earlier than his inauguration.

After the president’s crew didn’t reply, Metivier published the letter in petition kind, attracting hundreds of signatures.

“We’ve been trying to bring this to his attention since Day One,” Metivier mentioned. “We have seen overwhelming support and gratitude from binational couples, who don’t always feel like their voices are being heard.”

Other comparable petitions have circulated online in latest days.

“We were very hopeful with his election that maybe we would get a different response, maybe the laws would change. We remain hopeful that he’ll do things differently,” Metivier mentioned.

The motion discovered hope in one in all White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s first media briefings when she mentioned the administration was “reviewing and assessing” deal with the challenges going through single couples saved aside by the travel restrictions. “Our team is looking into that,” she mentioned.

But for now, the Biden administration seems unlikely to undertake an American “sweetheart clause.”

“At this time, the Department of State is not considering the granting of waivers or exceptions for unmarried couples to travel to the United States,” a State Department official mentioned.

Most European vacationers have been banned from coming into the United States since March 14, 2020, and the United States additionally maintains travel restrictions on international locations in Africa, Asia and South America. New U.S. restrictions have been added final month on vacationers from Brazil and South Africa as extremely contagious variants of the coronavirus emerged from these international locations.

HOPE FOR REUNION

Instead of constructing an exception to present restrictions for single couples, the Biden administration is extra more likely to take into account easing U.S. restrictions on worldwide vacationers if the pandemic subsides within the coming months, amid indicators that COVID-19 circumstances are on the decline both in Europe and the United States.

The United States marked a grim milestone this week, reaching over 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 for the reason that pandemic started one 12 months in the past. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has supplied cause for cautious optimism in latest days, noting that circumstances have decreased by 69% within the seven-day common since peaking in January.

In its remaining days in workplace, the Trump administration really useful lifting the worldwide travel restrictions it first put in place on European international locations, so long as inbound vacationers have been examined earlier than arrival.

The Biden administration was fast to reject that proposal, coming in at a time when circumstances and deaths have been rising to all-time highs. “With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” Psaki mentioned final month.

Rochelle Walensky, Biden’s new CDC director, regularly tells Americans that “now is not the time to travel.”

European nations additionally added new restrictions in January and February as extremely contagious variants of COVID-19 started to emerge, with France briefly suspending its “sweetheart clause” and limiting its residents dwelling overseas from visiting residence.

But with coronavirus circumstances declining, these urgent for relieving worldwide travel restrictions are hopeful that Biden may quickly revisit the matter.

On his first day in workplace, Biden carried out a coverage mandating using masks in all airports and aboard all industrial flights, and requiring all people flying to the United States to submit proof of a damaging COVID-19 check to airways previous to departure.

“They’re collecting data and they’re trying to see how the inbound testing mechanism is working. So I think maybe after they collect an adequate amount of data, in their view, and consider different options, we’re hopeful that they’ll look at some kind of timeframe for reopening in the short-term,” mentioned Tori Emerson Barnes, government vice chairman of public affairs and coverage on the U.S. Travel Association. “They know that it’s important to the industry and to the economy.”

“So international inbound travel is quite significant for the industry,” Barnes mentioned. “We believe that with the testing measures that are now in place for international inbound travel, as well as the mandatory mask mandate and other health and safety practices in place, we do think international travel can and should safely restart.”

Étienne mentioned that France and different western European governments are speaking with the Biden administration on methods to reopen worldwide travel within the coming months, relying on the success of U.S. and EU vaccination campaigns and the course of rising coronavirus variants.

U.S. and European officers additionally hope to coordinate their travel reopenings, based mostly on the circumstances on either side of the Atlantic and the recommendation of public well being consultants, Étienne mentioned.

“We cannot wait for tourism to resume, and we are very sensitive to the fact that our American friends would like to travel again,” Étienne mentioned. “This is the reason why the priority both in Europe and the U.S. is to win over the virus and vaccinate as quickly as possible many people as possible.”

“It’s difficult to give you a timetable, yet we are very mindful of what vaccination can help us to get in the coming months, and our deepest interest is to open borders,” Étienne mentioned. “We want to do it as soon as possible.”

Michael Wilner is a White House correspondent for McClatchy and leads protection of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, Wilner served as Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post. He holds levels from Claremont McKenna College and Columbia University and is a local of New York City.

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