Mad Professah is a big supporter of the organization Immigration Equality which keeps a close eye on how U.S. immigration law affects LGBT and HIV+ individuals and immigrants. Just a couple weeks ago I blogged about how China had announced that they were considering changing their ban on travel to that country by HIV+ individuals. At that time I mentioned that this would make China's policy more humane than U.S. immigration policy. I didn't realize then that the U.S. and China are currently on a list of only thirteen countries (Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Moldova, Russia, Armenia, and South Korea) that have travel and immigration bans on people living with HIV or AIDS.
Thanks to Towleroad comes the news that the Bush administration is in the process of revising the current travel ban also, but this time they want to make it worse! The always indispensable Gay City News has an article ("A Bush Double-Cross on HIV Travel Ban") about the proposed regulation change which is currently open for public comment until December 6th. The regulation is issued by the Department of Homeland Security entitled "Issuance of a Visa and Authorization for Temporary Admission Into the United States for Certain Nonimmigrant Aliens Infected With HIV" and numbered USCBP-2007-0084-0001.
Last year on World AIDS Day, President George W. Bush pledged to issue "streamlined" new regulations with a "categorical waiver" that would make it easier for the HIV-positive to receive exemptions.
"Unfortunately, despite using the terms 'streamlined' and 'categorical,' in reality these regulations are neither," said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality, which works on behalf of LGBT and HIV-positive asylum seekers and immigrants.
Neilson told Gay City News, "This is a big disappointment, given the rhetoric of the Bush administration that the US was making it easier – because the new regs simply add more heavy burdens for the HIV-positive traveler."
Among other provisions, under the new rules proposed by DHS, a visitor would need to travel with all the medication he would need during his stay in the US; prove that he has medical insurance that is accepted in the US and would cover any medical contingency; and prove that he won't engage in behavior that might put the American public at risk. The maximum term for any waiver would be 30 days.
The new regulations purport to speed up the waiver application process because consular officers would be empowered to make decisions without seeking DHS sign-off. However, by using this "streamlined" application process, waiver applicants would have to agree to give up the ability to apply for any change in status while in the US, including applying for legal permanent residence.
The purpose of fast-tracking the new regs and setting a super-tight December 6 deadline for public comment before they take effect was to catch the AIDS community – busy with preparations for World AIDS Day on December 1 – unawares. To a certain extent, the ploy has worked.