On Tuesday, March 31, less than a week before Congress went on spring recess, in a press room in the recently-inaugurated Capitol Visitor Center (it’s spectacular, by the way), Senators Dorgan (D-ND), Enzi (R-WY), and Dodd (D-CT), along with representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation, and Human Rights Watch, announced S. 428, “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act”. The press room reached its occupancy capacity within minutes of the press conference starting, and reporters were even standing in the hallways.
Two days later, on April 2, Representatives Delahunt (D-MA) and Flake (R-AZ), along with Representatives Farr (D-CA), McGovern (D-MA), Emerson (R-MO), DeLauro (D-CT), Chaffetz (new member, R-UT), Lee (D-CA), Berry (D-AR), and Edwards (D-MD), plus important leaders within the Cuban-American community, participated in a block-buster press conference announcing HR 874, the House companion to the Senate travel bill. The Cuban Americans hit it out of the park, leaving no doubt about the support for “travel for all” from the Cuban-American community. We wish you could have been there, but you can watch a video recording of it here.
Cuban Americans who participated were Silvia Wilhelm of the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights, Alfredo Duran of the Cuban Committee for Democracy, Ignacio Sosa of the Cuba Study Group, and Bishop Felipe Estevez, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdioceses of Miami. All four enthusiastically support the right of ALL Americans to travel to Cuba without U.S. restrictions.
Bills are announced in Washington, DC, almost every day; and legislation calling for an end to the travel ban has been introduced on multiple occasions. So why the big deal this time? Well… something felt different, and we wanted to share that feeling with you. This is our year!
A few minutes before Senator Dorgan took to the podium at the Senate press conference, we forced our way through a room full of reporters, struggling finally to carve out some standing room behind the television cameras, against the back wall.
Once the senator began speaking, the room came alive with the sound of tapes spinning and pencils gliding across note pads. The excitement grew as we realized what was happening: the world was starting to take notice of what the majority of U.S. citizens having been whispering for years; our whispers were transforming into video clips and newspaper columns, right before our eyes. Your voices were being heard!
We captured as much as we could on our cameras and cell phones, and sent a message to the LAWG Cuba e-mail network as soon as we got back to the office. (If you aren’t yet part of this active network, you can sign up; we would welcome your participation!) Both press conferences generated a lot of media about the travel ban, and it’s undeniable that momentum is building around changing these ridiculous and cruel restrictions.
To check if your senators or representative have co-sponsored the bills, click here (Senate) and here (House). If she/he hasn't, please call (Capitol switchboard 202.224.3121) or email your representative or senators to send a message strongly urging co-sponsorship.
Your work contacting your members and telling your friends has gotten us to this point, and we want to thank you for everything you've done. Please, keep your energy and determination high. Check back often to our website for the most recent information. We were determined to be in those press conference rooms, representing all of you, who for so many years have been demanding our right to travel and share our experiences and lives with our neighbors in Cuba. When the travel ban is finally ended, it will be YOUR VICTORY! Thank you.