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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

LAWG call to action to support Cuban American family travel amendment

Posted June 19, 2008 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Email received from LAWG.org

Dear Cuba Policy Advocates,

It’s time for us - and you - to get to work! A House subcommittee (Financial Services) yesterday added language to the appropriations bill that would ease travel restrictions for Cuban Americans wishing to visit family and would facilitate agricultural sales to Cuba. The result of yesterday’s subcommittee meeting is an appropriations bill that allows for Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba once per year and expands the definition of family to include cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Get more details from this Reuters article http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN1738649220080617 . Or in Rep. Serrano’s words:  “This mark also includes provisions to liberalize travel to Cuba for Americans who have family members living in that nation.  There is no reason to place harsh restrictions on those who simply wish to visit close family members.  In addition, the bill contains a provision to facilitate agricultural trade with Cuba, allowing more American farmers to sell their products to Cuba.”

This language in the legislation is only the beginning. This is a very modest effort, but it is extremely important that it not lose! It paves the way for broader changes that are what we and you really want. The message that would be sent if these provisions lose would be harmful to our work for real change next year.

The real work starts now, and it starts with us! We have to work to get this bill on the floor, and to do so we have to make our voice heard on Capitol Hill! The first step is getting it passed by the full Appropriations Committee, which will meet tentatively Wednesday June 25. We must urge members on that committee to vote in favor of Representative Serrano’s Cuba provisions in the Financial Services Appropriations bill so it reaches the floor. See a full list of committee members here http://appropriations.house.gov/members110th.shtml  Check it out to see if your representative is on this committee. If so, we need you!

We have selected a number of members in particular that need strong encouragement. This list includes:

  Rodney Alexander (R) LA-5 (Alexandria, Monroe areas) tel. 202.225.8490
  Jo Bonner (R) AL-1 (Mobile, Foley areas) tel. 202.225.4931
  Allen Boyd (D) FL-2 (Tallahassee, Panama City areas) 202.225.5235
  Chet Edwards (D) TX-17 (Waco, College Station areas) 202.225.6105
  Patrick Kennedy (D) RI-1 (Pawtucket Area) 202.225.3290
  Jack Kingston (R) GA-1 (Savannah, Brunswick, Baxley, Valdosta areas)  202.225.5831
  John Peterson (R) PA-5 (State College, Titusville areas) 202.225.2565
  Dennis Rehberg (R) MT-At large (full state) 202.225.3211
  Ciro Rodriguez (D) TX-23 (San Antonio area) 202.225.4511
  Steven Rothman (D) NJ-9 (Hackensack, Jersey City areas) 202.225.5061
  Tim Ryan (D) OH-17 (Youngstown, Akron, Warren areas) 202.225.5261
  Adam Schiff (D) CA-29 (Pasadena area) 202.225.4176
  Zach Wamp (R) TN-3 (Chattanooga, Oak Ridge areas) 202.225.3271
  Frank Wolf (R) VA-10 (Herndon, Winchester areas) 202.225.5136

We urge advocates from these districts contact your members and ask them to support Rep.Serrano’s Cuba provisions in the Financial Services Appropriations Bill. Call the Washington office, ask for the foreign policy aide, and request that the congressperson vote in favor of the Cuba provisions in the Financial Services Appropriations Bill to be considered next week in full committee.  Call today!

And, if you aren’t in any of the target districts but know people in these districts, PLEASE pass on this information and ask these constituents to call. 

The list above is made up of what we consider priority members to contact, but any member on the full committee should be strongly encouraged to vote in favor of Rep. Serrano’s Cuba provisions.  So, if your member is on the committee list (http://appropriations.house.gov/members110th.shtml ) but not one of the targets, we still encourage you to contact him/her.

Finally, please let us know with a quick email if you contact your member’s office and what the response is.  Thanks!

Thank you for all you do advocating for a more just policy.

Sincerely,
Mavis Anderson
Paulo Gusmao
Latin America Working Group
http://www.lawg.org

Member Comments

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On June 27, 2008, publisher wrote:

Update from LAWG

Cuba Provisions in Financial Services Appropriations bill:  We bring you a brief update today about activity on these provisions in the House Appropriations Committee.  We wrote to you about this on Thursday, June 19.  Yesterday, June 25, Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY) presented his Financial Services Appropriations bill to the full Appropriations Committee for approval and readying for a vote on the floor of the House.

The bill included three small Cuba provisions that do the following:

1) Allow Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba to visit family once a year rather than once every three years;

2) Expand the U.S. definition of family to include aunts, uncles, 1st cousins, nieces, and nephews.

3) Tweak the “cash-in-advance” regulations to allow agricultural goods to leave U.S. ports for Cuba prior to receiving Cuba’s cash payment; title is transfered after the cash is received in the seller’s account.

The bill passed out of the Appropriations Committee with the Cuba language intact.  This is a small, but positive step—one tiny chink in the full travel ban.  Obviously we—and you—want more than this.  We want unrestricted travel for all Americans to Cuba.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) spoke strongly against the Cuba provisions in committee, as did Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL); but they did not offer an amendment to remove the language from the bill.  Rep. Serrano responded with clear arguments for the Cuba provisions, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) also spoke passionately in favor of engagement with Cuba.  It is our assessment that Reps. Wasserman Schultz and and Boyd were under pressure as Democrats not to offer an amendment but to defer their opposition to the House floor when the bill is considered by the full House.  Also, we believe that they did not have the votes to defeat the Cuba provisions in committee.

The next step is for the bill to move to the House floor for amendments and approval—in July or September, date yet uncertain.  Because this is an election year, and because it is unlikely that appropriations bills will go to President Bush’s desk for his signature this year (the Democrats want to be able to re-write the budget and the appropriations bills in early 2009 under a potential Democratic president), we cannot predict the fate of this bill.  However, if it comes to the House floor, we have to be ready to defend the Cuba provisions.  Losing would send the absolutely wrong message to south Florida and to a new Administration.  So, we will come back to you for your help in contacting your members of Congress when the Financial Services bill has a date for floor consideration.  Our task will be more difficult in front of the whole House; we will need you.

We want to thank Rep. Serrano and his staff for the good work they did on this bill.