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Congressional Leaders Must Act on Cuba Travel

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The Honorable Harry Reid, Majority Leader The Honorable Richard Durbin, Assistant Majority Leader United States Senate The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker The Honorable Steny Hoyer, Majority Leader United States House of Representative Dear Senators Reid and Durbin and Representatives Pelosi and Hoyer: We write to ask action by Congress to address the critical humanitarian and policy issue of travel to Cuba. Under regulations promulgated by President Bush in 2004 for reasons of partisan domestic politics, Cuban Americans are denied the opportunity to maintain normal and necessary contact with members of their own separated families. Under current law and regulations, all Americans are deprived of their fundamental human and Constitutional rights to travel and associate freely. The Bush Administration\'s effort to force change in Cuba through isolation has resulted only in painful barriers for families and the isolation of the US, not of Cuba, from world opinion. Two-thirds of Americans, including most Cuban Americans, want this policy changed. The inability of the Democratic led Congress to act contributes to an atmosphere of public frustration. Legislation has been introduced in both Houses of Congress to address humanitarian family issues (HR 757) as well as to end all restrictions on travel to Cuba by Americans (S 721, HR 654), the last gaining an unprecedented 120 cosponsors thanks to active constituent support. We are confident that with a clear signal from the leadership -- and cooperation between your offices and Members with advocacy organizations -- the Congress can enact meaningful legislation this year. Congress should at least restore the pre-2004 practice under Presidents Clinton and Bush by mandating a general license for travel to Cuba for family reunion and \"purposeful\" non-tourist reasons (e.g. religious, people to people, student, cultural and professional exchanges). Were the President to exercise a veto, he will demonstrate that special-interest politics and ideology have greater weight with his administration than family values, the wishes of the American people or our negative international and hemispheric image. We strongly believe that Congressional statesmanship can make a compelling case that now is the moment to end our isolation from Cuba\'s people and their future, while moving closer to restoring the right to travel to all Americans. If nothing changes until a new President takes office, Americans will be barred from interacting with Cubans at an important time for both nations. We are committed to raising this issue until it is resolved, but believe it is preferable that bipartisan action be taken before the parties nominate their Presidential candidates. Sincerely,


The purpose of this letter is to press the Democratic leadership of Congress to give priority to the two most urgent aspects of travel to Cuba, family and \"purposeful\". If you live in the State or District of one of the four leaders (or of Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Eliot Engel, chairs of subcommittees on Western Hemisphere Affairs), please call or write them personally and share their responses with us. Our goal remains to restore to all Americans their righr to travel to Cuba for any reason, including tourism and business, and we believe that Cubans should also be able to freely visit the US. Please note that anonymous signatures are not useful for this letter. John McAuliff, Fund for Reconciliation and Development


The people who want to stop Americans from traveling to Cuba and oppose any improvement of relations between our countries contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for public education and PAC donations to candidates. If you are not already assisting an organization that advocates for the right to travel, please consider supporting the Fund for Reconciliation and Development at ************** INITIAL SIGNERS * Max Lesnik, President, Alianza Martiana * Kirby Jones, President, Alamar Associates * Albert A. Fox, Jr., President, Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation * Mary Ellen McNish, Executive Secretary, American Friends Service Committee * Bob Edgar, President (CEO), Common Cause; former General Secretary, National Council of Churches * Louis Head, Executive Director, Cuba Research & Analysis Group * Delvis Fernandez Levy, President, Cuban American Alliance Education Fund * Julio V Ruiz, MD, Cuban-American Geriatric Foundation * Sarah Stephens, Executive Director, Center for Democracy in the Americas * Wayne Smith, Center for International Policy * John L. McCullough, Executive Director & CEO, Church World Service * Charles A. Serrano, Council for Latin American Relations * Xiomara Levy, President, Cuban American Defense League * Bob Schwartz, Disarm Education Fund * Ruben G. Rumbaut, ENCASA US/Cuba; Professor University of California, Irvine * Antonio Zamora, President, Foundation for the Normalization of US/Cuba Relations * John McAuliff,Executive Director, Fund for Reconciliation and Development * Kirsten Moller, Executive Director, Global Exchange * Eddie Levy, Chairman, Jewish Solidarity * Luis Rumbaut, editor, La Alborada, Cuban American Alliance Education Fund * Mavis Anderson, Senior Associate, Latin America Working Group * Peter Bourne, Board Chairman, Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba * Bert Lobe, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee * Pamela Martin, President, Molimar Export Consultants * Marjorie Cohn, President, National Lawyers Guild * Richard Walden, President & CEO, Operation USA * Silvia Wilhelm, Executive Director, Puentes Cubanos; Cuban American Commission for Family Rights * Craig Calhoun, President, Social Science Research Council * Lisa Valanti, President, U.S.-Cuba Sister Cities Association * Elsa Falkenburger, Washington Office on Latin America (individual signers) * Make Farrell, Actor * Mary Day Kent, former Executive Director, Women\'s International League for Peace and Freedom * Sgt. Carlos Lazo, decorated Iraq veteran * Lawrence Wilkerson, Pamela Harriman Visiting Professor of Government, College of William and Mary; former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell * Peter Yarrow, folk singer, \"Peter, Paul and Mary\"; president, Operation Respect
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