Congressman José Serrano (NY-16) issued a statement today saying he was “shocked and apalled” at the “heartless approach” by House Republicans to shut down all family travel to Cuba during the holiday season (read full press release below). Rolled into a spending “Megabus” bill that is being pushed through Congress is language that would restrict family travel to Cuba for Cuban Americans to once every three years, no exceptions. However, not only does this amendment, led by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, separate families, it also redefines what constitutes a family circle, limiting the definition to immediate family only.
If you didn’t get a chance to send the President a message yesterday, use this time to let him know that you support unrestricted Cuban-American family travel, not separation. Or call the White House at 202.456.1111 (24 hour recorded comment line) or 202.456.1414 (9am-5pm switchboard). And if you have already contacted the White House, please do it again! Our voices must be heard!
Here’s a sample message for you to use, if you’d like: “President Obama, it is not acceptable for any spending bill to include a limit on Cuban-American family travel or remittances, or to tell Cubans who belongs to their families. Support Cuban-American families, as you promised in your 2008 campaign; don’t sign a “megabus” bill that that limits family rights to travel to Cuba freely.”
Congressman José E. Serrano
Representing the Sixteenth District of New York
December 15, 2011
CONTACT: Philip Schmidt, (202) 225-4361
Republicans to End Cuba Family Travel Days Before Christmas
Washington, DC – In a move that would embarrass even the Grinch, House Republicans have proposed to shut down all family travel to Cuba just days before Christmas, and also to apply a severe limitation on remittances and gifts. Congressman José E. Serrano, who has been fighting against this proposal in recent weeks, said he was “shocked” and “appalled” at this heartless approach just before the holidays.
“I don’t think that most people realize what the Republicans, led by a few hardliners, have included in their annual spending bill—a provision that will end family travel to Cuba just days before the holidays. It will strand people already there, and it will severely limit people’s ability to send holiday gifts and money to their families,” said Serrano. “This is not only wrong, but it is just plain cruel. How can Congressional Republicans be willing to tell Doña Juana in South Florida that she cannot go on a trip she’s been planning all year; the trip to spend time with her family over Christmas? How can they say that cutting off gifts sent to family still on the island for the holidays is in the best interests of our nation? The policy is awful, but the timing is just plain heartless.”
If the Republicans’ proposal goes through as part of the year-end spending package the following changes would be made:
- No travel to see relatives other than ‘immediate’ family;
- Travel limited to once every 3 years for 2 weeks;
- Remittances of no more than $300 per quarter.
“In changing back to these rules, people who had travelled once in the past 3 years would not be permitted to go to Cuba these coming holidays—regardless of the tickets they purchased and plans they made,” Serrano added. “In making these changes effective immediately, people in Cuba visiting family would be suddenly breaking the law and their return to the States would be extremely unclear—no more charter planes could be flown there to pick up people. Remember that these rules also mean that if you went to visit a sick parent who later died, you would not be able to go to the funeral. These are deeply troubling changes that will cause an immediate mess, followed by a terrible cost in broken plans and sorrow for families.
“There is very little time before this bill is voted on. People need to be aware that this will have immediate and devastating consequences. They should let their Representatives and Senators know that this inhumane treatment of families simply because governments cannot agree is unacceptable. I am certain that when people realize what has been done, they will feel deeply betrayed by these extreme efforts to hurt Cuba at the expense of Cuban families. This proposal is unconscionable at any moment but it is just plain mean-spirited in its holiday timing.”
Congressman José E. Serrano has represented the Bronx in Congress since 1990.