“From the very first day, President Donald Trump has put the health of Americans first,” Pence said in the debate. “Before we had five cases — all people who returned from China — he did what no one had ever did: He suspended all travel from China.”
The China travel ban is a regular talking point for Trump when defending his administration’s response to the pandemic.
So, did Trump actually ban all travel from China? Here’s what you need to know:
Trump Did Not Institute a Full Ban on Travel From China
Trump has repeatedly claimed, including at his first debate against Joe Biden, that he made a decision to close all travel to the United States from China in February and saved 2 million American lives, while taking considerable heat for an “early” ban, The Washington Post reported.
However, Trump’s travel restrictions were not all-inclusive, and went into effect on February 2, after 45 countries had already imposed their own restrictions, according to the outlet’s reporting.
The so-called "China travel ban" that Pence touts was mostly "canceling" flights that the airlines had already grounded. And it was so porous that 40,000 people came to the US from China anyway.
— Paul Begala (@PaulBegala) October 8, 2020
Trump’s restrictions also allowed travel from China to the States for more than five months after their announcement, and more than 8.000 Chinese and foreign nationals still entered the country after the sanctions the Associated Press described as “porous” were imposed.
In the first months of the limited restrictions, at least 27,000 Americans also flew to the United States from China, the outlet also noted.
Did Joe Biden Call Trump ‘Hysterical & Xenophobic’ for His Travel Restrictions?
Pence also claimed that Biden called Trump’s travel restrictions “xenophobic and hysterical” during the debate. Nonpartisan fact-checkers, however, have pointed out that Biden’s comments on Trump were made in the context of criticizing his general temperament when it comes to race.
According to Politifact, which drew on multiple outlets as sources, Biden did claim that Trump had a “record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering” around the time Trump announced the travel restrictions.
According to CNN, Biden’s remarks were targeted at what he perceived as Trump’s general racism, and made at a campaign stop, when he was not yet aware of the travel restrictions.
Conservative outlet The National Review disagreed, however, tying Biden’s statement, as well as a concurrent tweet from the campaign, directly to Trump’s travel policies.