Did We Dodge A Bullet? NY Congressman Ritchie Torres Introduces Travel Ban For Unvaxxed
Yes, A New York Congressman Actually Introduced a Bill To Remove The Inalienable Right To Travel!!!
Ritchie Torres (D-NY-15) Introduced HR-4980 in August of 2021, a bill that luckily went nowhere, but is still important to understand. I have gone through and highlighted four areas of concerning language in this bill. See below for an analysis, outlining my concerns over these four points.
“To direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that any individual traveling on a flight that departs from or arrives to an airport inside the United States or a territory of the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID–19, and for other purposes (1).
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
(a) In general.—The Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, shall take such actions as are necessary(2) to ensure that any individual traveling on a flight that departs from or arrives to an airport inside the United States or a territory of the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID–19.
Four Points of Concern:
1. “and for other purposes”- I find that this open-ended language leaves the door open for future additions to this law, which would no longer require legislative review once passed. Should this bill have passed, the oversight of this law would fall under the scope and authority of the Department of Homeland Security. DHS does not publish their rule changes for public comment prior to instituting said rule change. Essentially, this broad language could quickly evolve to mean that any current or future vaccines would be required for domestic travel. There are currently over 200 vaccines in various stages of development, with more being added on a consistent basis.
2. “Take such actions as are necessary”- Again, this language is sweeping, authoritative and broad. The term “necessary” is not defined in the bill, and it is unclear what a review process might look like to determine best practices for “necessary”. However, my concern is that the “necessary” action might include some form of force, coercion or duress, and therefore I find this extremely concerning language.
3. “All recommended doses”- This is yet another subjective term, as the bill does not define who is charged with making these recommendations. Additionally, “recommended” is a loosely defined term, already creating legal confusion, and placing various school districts, State and County health departments at odds with Federal ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) guidelines on best practices. For example, Los Angeles Unified School District moved ahead of ACIP, creating a vaccine mandate for k-12, but upon legal challenge, LAUSD was forced to walk that decision back. ACIP ultimately decides which vaccines are added to the childhood schedule, and which vaccines should be required for public school attendance. The individual States then make the final decision regarding public school requirements, and exemptions.
4. “or authorized for emergency use”- Medications, vaccines and biologics authorized under the emergency use law (signed by President Donald Trump allowing access to “lifesaving medications”) are not licensed or approved. EUA law also states that nothing authorized under emergency use shall be made compulsory, due to informed consent. When medical interventions are still undergoing trials, and not yet licensed for use, the manufacturer is protected from liability, and allowed to shield the ingredients from public disclosure, as it is considered “proprietary intellectual property”. True informed consent is not available with any product in EUA status, as the public receiving these products are not privy to all the facts, therefore it shall not be compulsory.
In summation, I find these four points combined, could be understood as a direct removal of the un-alienable right to travel. The bill as outlined specifies air travel, but it’s probable that the meaning could easily change over time to include other forms of travel. Travel is an actual legal definition, and specified as an inherent right, technically not subject to enumeration. Unfortunately, the definition of “travel” has already faced enumeration when clever language was crafted around the term “driving”. This tiny language change effectively enumerated and created a means for restriction and taxation upon the act of traveling. It is well within reason to make a slippery slope argument, especially in light of the language surrounding “such actions as are necessary”, and “all recommended doses” of vaccines, even those in EUA status.
While I’m glad this bill never moved forward, I personally feel that this bill should have never been introduced in a truly free country. Please make sure to send your thoughts to the author, Congressman Ritchie Torres, and politely let him know what you think about his legislative proposal. Thank goodness Americans always have an election, just around the corner.