EMAIL RECEIVED FROM LATIN AMERICAN LAW GROUP:
Dear Cuba Policy Advocates:
Happy New Year. This is our first update/alert in the New Year, and we have lots of news. Most importantly, we want to alert you to a very exciting opportunity for real change in U.S.-Cuba policy and to enlist your help in making it happen. Please read on!
A Bill to End the Travel Ban
Many of you probably have learned that a very important Cuba bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives. On January 24, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced HR 654, with the following original co-sponsors: McGovern (D-MA), Emerson (R-MO), Delahunt (D-MA), Ramstad (R-MN), Snyder (D-AR), Moran (R-KS). This bill allows the freedom of travel between the United States and Cuba ; it ends all restrictions on travel to Cuba . You may view the full text of the bill at: http://thomas.loc.gov/ . From there, type HR 654 in the “Search Bill Text” and check the “Bill Number” circle.
Congressman Charlie Rangel, the principle sponsor of this bill, is the “man of the hour.” He is the new chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and he is our ally in changing Cuba policy. The fact that this bill has been submitted by him, along with Rep. Flake (who has been working for years to end the travel ban), is very significant. We have the momentum; key Democrats who are supportive of a change in policy have control of the committee process; this is our moment.
ACTION: Here’s what we must do now. In order to “create a buzz” about this bill and demonstrate the strength of congressional support to end the travel ban, we need to get as many cosponsors as possible in as short a time period as possible. That’s where your help is critical.
Our goal is to achieve 100 cosponsors in one month. Here are the benchmarks:
By February 9: 35 cosponsors
By February 16: 60 cosponsors
By February 23: 80 cosponsors
By March 1: 100 cosponsors
Success depends upon constituents contacting their member of Congress and urging her/him to cosponsor this important bill. Please call your member of Congress on Friday or Monday to ask for cosponsorship of HR 654 to restore the fundamental right of all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba . You may reach your member of Congress by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 and asking to be transferred to your congressperson’s office. Or you may go to http://www.house.gov to find that information. To see a listing of new members of Congress and their phone numbers, see http://www.lawg.org/docs/newmembers.pdf .
To sign on to the bill, Democratic members should call Vivian Catalino in Rep. Rangel’s office; Republican members should call Lance Walker in Rep. Flake’s office.
Even members of Congress who you know to be supportive of travel to Cuba should be called to be sure they sign on as cosponsors. A nudge from constituents may be the only way to bring this bill to the attention of each member. We can take no one for granted. If your member of Congress is among the original co-sponsors listed above, please call and say “thank you.”
We’ll keep you apprised of the progress made toward the goal of 100 cosponsors. And of members who still need to be contacted.
Other Cuba Bills
A number of other bills related to U.S.-Cuba policy have also been introduced. While we would support the passage of each of the following bills, our immediate attention should be on HR 654, whose passage would cover both Cuban-American family travel and educational travel and is the bill where we anticipate the action to be focused. HR 654 is an ideal vehicle for congressional work and has great prospects for passing with strong bipartisan support. It would signal the beginning of the end of the full embargo.
HR 757, introduced January 31 by Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), with seven additional cosponsors. To allow United States nationals and permanent residents to visit family members in Cuba , and for other purposes. [This is a bill we will energetically support when it sees floor action; we continue to believe that immediate work should be done on HR 654, which would enact all the provisions of this bill also.]
HR 624, introduced January 22 by Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-MA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). To lift the trade embargo on Cuba .
HR 217, introduced January 4 by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY). To lift the trade embargo on Cuba .
HR 216, introduced January 4 by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY). To waive certain prohibitions with respect to nationals of Cuba coming to the United States to play organized professional baseball.
HR 177, introduced January 4 by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), with three cosponsors. To provide that no funds made available to the Department of the Treasury may be used to implement, administer, or enforce regulations to require specific licenses for travel-related transactions directly related to educational activities in Cuba .
And one negative bill that we obviously do not support:
HR 525, introduced January 17 by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), with four cosponsors. To amend the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 [Helms-Burton law] to require that, in order to determine that a democratically elected government in Cuba exists, the government extradite to the United States convicted felon William Morales and all other individuals who are living in Cuba in order to escape prosecution or confinement for criminal offenses committed in the United States.
That’s all for now. Please make your calls! We’ll be back to you soon with the results of your actions.
Latin America Working Group