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Our Best Chance to End the Travel Ban in 2010

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Today in Washington, Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), Congressman Jerry Moran (R-KS), and at least 31 of their House colleagues introduced new legislation (HR 4645) that would put the United States and Cuba firmly on a path towards engagement by (finally) restoring U.S. citizens' right to travel to Cuba and facilitating needed U.S. agricultural sales to the island that were initially approved by Congress in 2000.

ACT NOW: Call your House representative today and ask her/him to co-sponsor HR 4645, the bipartisan Peterson-Moran bill on opening travel and enhancing ag sales to Cuba. You can reach members' offices through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

If you prefer sending an email, that's fine, too. Click here to send your congressperson your message!

Click here to see the bill's text. Click here to learn if your House representative is an original co-sponsor; if so, please call to thank her/him. Click here to see the Agriculture Committee's press release on the bill.

SUPPORT FOR TRAVEL: After years of working with you to organize and educate the U.S. public, allowing U.S. citizens' travel to Cuba is now favored by a majority of U.S. citizens and 67 percent of Cuban Americans. And the ripple effect created by our efforts in Miami, Washington, and beyond is finally changing attitudes in Congress: the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (HR 874, introduced by Congressmen Delahunt and Flake; and S 428, introduced by Senators Dorgan and Enzi), legislation similar to the new Peterson-Moran bill, has won the backing of 177 House members and 38  senators.

As you know, we need 218 votes in the House and a supermajority of 60 in the Senate. It appears that we have gone about as far as we can go in gathering cosponsors for these two original travel bills. We need something to attract a new constituency, activate educational work on Capitol Hill, re-focus the Congress, create more momentum, and push us over the top.

That's where the Peterson-Moran bill comes in. A lot of work on Capitol Hill by the agriculture and commodity communities is making a big difference. Additional members are paying attention, and several new cosponsors have already been attracted to this new bill. Joining travel and ag together in the same legislation will, we anticipate, give us the boost that we need to get the job done.

Click here to send your congressperson your message.

NEW OPPORTUNITY: While we should celebrate what we've already achieved, our work isn't finished until this senseless, Cold War-era policy that infringes upon our right to freely exchange with Cuba–as we are allowed to do with the rest of the world–is defeated. The Peterson-Moran bill gives us the best chance of doing that this year, but–because this is U.S.-Cuba policy we're talking about–we cannot rest assured of its smooth passage by Congress. We need to help it along with constituent activism.

So, again, we're asking you to contact your House member today, via email or the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. If members know they have their constituents' backing, they're more likely to get off the sidelines and co-sponsor Peterson-Moran. We have heard this directly and repeatedly from members and staff as we make the rounds of the Hill. And it's so important that members agree to co-sponsor the bill so that we can show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that we have the support to pass this bill. If we do that, Peterson-Moran could be out the door of the House and on its way to action in the Senate.

Remember, this is our best chance to end the travel ban once-and-for-all in 2010. Click here to send your congressperson your message!

You might be wondering why we're asking you to call your congressperson about a bill that facilitates U.S. agricultural sales to the island, in addition to opening up travel. To begin with, the ag-related provisions in Peterson-Moran simply clarify legislation opening sales to Cuba that Congress approved ten years ago. So the bill's agriculture piece is already a done deal; it just needs to be "fixed" because of tampering that the Bush Administration did in their eight years in office.

MORE DETAILS: The ag language in the Peterson-Moran bill does two things:

(1) allows banks in Cuba to wire payments for ag purchases directly to the U.S. bank of the producer, rather than making the payment through a third country, which adds time and cost;

(2) restores the traditional definition of "cash in advance," which transfers title of the product (after payment is received) once the shipment has arrived in the Havana port, rather than while still in a U.S. port, which leaves the commodity vulnerable to being confiscated.

While this bill is not what we had originally envisioned, the economic and political moment means that Congress is focused on creating jobs. The Peterson-Moran bill will achieve our goal of ending the travel ban on Cuba, but it will also create jobs here at home in the agricultural, travel, hospitality, dairy, and other industries that have been hard hit by the recession.

Drop us a line and let us know what you hear from your members. You can reach us at manderson@lawg.org or (202) 546-7010.Thanks for all of your help! Your non-stop energy and enthusiasm to pass travel for ALL in this Congress encourages and sustains us here in Washington, DC. If we keep it up, we have a good chance of getting the job done this year.