Family travel to Cuba reverts to cruel Bush-era regs

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Today the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of an amendment, put forth by Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida (R-FL 21st), to the FY 2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill. This amendment, which passed by voice vote, rescinds changes that President Obama made in 2009 to Cuban-American family travel and remittances regulations. If this amendment were to become law, Cuban Americans would only be permitted to visit their families in Cuba once every three years, with a limited definition of what constitutes family, and with no humanitarian exceptions. Cuban Americans would also be limited in what they could send in remittances to Cuba. We would be back to Bush Administration-era regulations on family travel. This is totally unacceptable.

Over eleven hundred of you sent messages to your representatives yesterday. Those messages were not in vain. Each of the emails that you sent, and phone calls that you made, chip away at the monopoly that a minority in Congress has over this issue. Thank you.   

Luckily, there are other hurdles that this amendment must face before it can become law. Today’s outcome does not mean that the President’s 2009 regulatory changes will be rescinded. The Financial Services Appropriations bill still has a long journey ahead of it, which means that we must be prepared for more fights moving forward. Today we took a step back, but let’s get our footing now for the challenges we will certainly face when the bill hits the House floor and when the Senate considers its version of the bill.

Let’s take a moment to be disappointed–no,  more than disappointed. Angry. But only for a moment. We must save our energies for an ultimate defeat of this setback—and the continuing goal of achieving “travel for all.” Cuban Americans in south Florida and elsewhere should be especially furious at this  action by a Cuban-American member of Congress limiting  their right to be with their families; but we all have the right to be outraged.

Supporters of the embargo voted to — once again — divide Cuban-American families from their relatives in Cuba. If the amendment were to become law, most of the approximately 400,000 Cuban Americans who traveled to Cuba last year to see their families would be prohibited from doing so; and the remittances that help many Cuban families to survive and thrive in a difficult Cuban economy would be cut. It’s a cruel thing to do—mean-spirited and anti-family; it’s about punishing families in the United States and in Cuba because of their opposition to the Cuban government.

We can’t let this happen. Stay tuned for next steps, responses, and actions. We’re counting on you.