Velazquez, Smith Lead on Travelers Bill to Get Americans Back Home
With thousands of Americans stranded overseas, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who has been working to get Americans currently stuck in Peru, teamed up as the lead Republican sponsor on legislation written by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), HR 6376, that would waive fees for travelers who require evacuation assistance from the U.S. Department of State.
“This legislation would provide important relief for American citizens stranded abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Smith, who has been assisting American citizens trapped abroad as countries have shut down international travel. “As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts the lives of Americans here at home, we cannot forget our fellow Americans overseas who are cut off from their families and using what resources they have left to cover the costs of unplanned extended stay in a foreign land.”
“In the middle of this crisis, it is unconscionable that our government would foist enormous travel fees on stranded Americans who are desperate to get home and reunite with their families,” said Velázquez. “This bill is meant to send a message to the State Department to waive these fees, immediately.”
In an urgent phone conversation Saturday, March 21st with the U.S. Ambassador to Peru, Krishna Urs, Smith exhorted the Ambassador to assist Americans trying to get out of the country by any feasible means. Smith has been working with State Department officials for several days. A human rights leader in the Congress, Smith has written three letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlining the location and needs of the New Jersey residents and others desperate for assistance to come home and has spoken to several State Department officials in the U.S. and at the embassy in Peru.
While the Department of State can coordinate evacuation transport for Americans who are unable to procure commercial travel, travelers who use Department of State flights have to sign a promissory note indicating their intent to reimburse the cost of a flight or comparable alternate transportation. The legislation would eliminate red tape and the cost to citizens to returning home on government coordinated transport because of the coronavirus.