Former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz tells Newsmax that Sen. Marco Rubio's travel ban proposal to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus in the United States is "clearly constitutional."
"The Congress has the power, as does the president, to protect the public health by banning travel by noncitizens to the United States," Dershowitz told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV
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"We can simply deny visas. There's no constitutional issue there," he explained.
However, if President Barack Obama and "Congress were to try to prevent American citizens who, say, were sick and wanted to come back to the country for the best medical care, that would pose a different problem, and I don't think we could keep them out of the country."
"We could require them to be subject to a quarantine once they came in the country," he said. "But an American citizen generally has the right to return to his country and seek the best medical care."
Rubio announced Monday
that he plans to introduce legislation when Congress returns in November that would prevent citizens of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone from obtaining new visas to enter the United States.
However, the Florida Republican said that "this ban on the issuance of visas does not mean we will be completely cutting off the affected countries from the outside world," adding that "we must continue to increase our assistance to those countries as they struggle to contain this outbreak."
Twenty-five lawmakers in the House signed a letter sent to the president asking him to approve a ban on citizens from the three West African countries
that are fighting the Ebola epidemic.
According to Dershowitz, this wouldn't be the first time a travel ban would be imposed to curtail the spread of disease.
"There are cases that go back to the days where the fear was tuberculosis and cholera," he told Newsmax.
"There are a lot of old cases permitting fairly drastic remedies to prevent the spread of illness, including the declaration of martial law in a couple of cases where there were real, real serious threats of airborne contagious diseases," he explained.
"There's plenty of power that the Constitution gives Congress and the president to protect the public health," he said.
"What's needed is a nuanced response that fits the problem and it should be handled never as a political issue but always as a public-health issue, and it should be handled without regard to race," he added.
"We shouldn't have a different rule if it's Africa than if it's Europe or Australia," the former Harvard Law professor explained.
"We just have to make sure to dot our constitutional i's and cross our constitutional t's, and we'll be OK."
Dershowitz also spoke about Obama talking with Iran on a nuclear deal.
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