McGovern and Leahy Press Releases on Freedom to Travel Bills

Jul 31, 2019 by


Leahy To Introduce Bill To Restore Americans’ Freedom To Travel To Cuba

. . . Heads a bipartisan coalition of 46 senators to end failed policy of isolation

(THURSDAY, July 25, 2019) — Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, joined by 45 Senate cosponsors, on Monday, July 29th, will introduce the Freedom for Americans to Travel to Cuba Act of 2019.  The bill would eliminate restrictions on travel to Cuba by American citizens and legal residents.  Identical legislation is being introduced today in the House by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).

Specifically, the bipartisan legislation ends restrictions under laws enacted in 1996 and 2000 that prevent American citizens and legal residents from travelling to Cuba – restrictions that do not exist for travel by Americans to any other country in the world except North Korea.  The bill would also end prohibitions on travel-related transactions, including banking transactions.

Leahy said:  “The Trump Administration’s policy toward Cuba is completely at odds with its policies toward other countries.  It is more in line with what one might expect of a totalitarian dictatorship.  Freedom to travel is a right.  It is fundamental.  It is part of who we are as Americans.  We travel.  We explore.  We meet people.  We share our values.  We build relationships with people we agree with and disagree with.  Americans overwhelmingly support expanding travel to Cuba.  The federal government should not be telling Americans where they can or cannot travel, especially to a tiny country just 90 miles from Florida.

Leahy continued:  “Because of the Trump Administration’s restrictions on travel, the number of Americans visiting Cuba this year is projected to plummet by half.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans who want to travel to Cuba are being denied that right by their own government.  It is they, and Cuba’s struggling private entrepreneurs who depend on American customers, who are penalized.  The restrictions that this bill would end are a failed vestige of the Cold War.  They are neither justified nor in our national security or economic interests.  If we don’t engage with Cuba, China and Russia will – in fact they already are.  While this bill doesn’t lift the embargo, it at least would restore to Americans the freedom to travel they are entitled to in a democracy.”


McGovern Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to End Cuba Travel Ban

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Washington, July 25, 2019 | 0 comments
Legislation Would Remove All Restrictions on U.S. Travel to Cuba

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WASHINGTONToday, Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA), Chairman of the House Rules Committee and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, introduced bipartisan legislation alongside Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) in the House of Representatives to lift all restrictions on travel to Cuba by American citizens and legal residents.

Full Text of Bill Available Here (PDF)

The legislation, which was cosponsored by Kathy Castor (D-FL), Eric A. “Rick” Crawford (R-AR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Darin LaHood (R-IL), José E. Serrano (D-NY), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Donald S. Beyer, Jr. (D-VA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), would also lift restrictions on transactions in conjunction with such travel, such as banking transactions.

Last month, the Trump administration further cracked down on travel to Cuba implementing regulatory changes to ban “people-to-people” travel, the most common legal method of American travel to Cuba for non-family visits. The administration’s changes also bar all U.S. cruise vessels from entering Cuba.

“Every single American should have the freedom to travel as they see fit. Yet the travel ban deliberately punishes the American people – our very best ambassadors – and prevents them from engaging directly with the Cuban people,” said Congressman McGovern. “It is a Cold-War relic that serves only to isolate the United States from our allies and partners in the region, while strengthening the control of ideological hardliners in both countries.  It’s time for us to listen to the majority of Americans, Cuban-Americans, and Cubans who do not support the travel ban, and get rid of it once and for all.”

The Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA) of 2000 codified a ban on tourist travel to Cuba for U.S. nationals. It is the only country in the world for which the U.S. maintains a statutory travel ban. Currently, Americans can travel to China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Russia, Iran and Syria – each with human rights records arguably as bad or worse than Cuba’s.  Until just recently, Americans could even travel to North Korea.

Ironically, continued efforts to further restrict the right of Americans to travel to Cuba have had devastating consequences for Cuba’s fledgling private sector – the very people the United States aims to help. Until these harsher measures were imposed, Cuba’s private sector had grown to be approximately 30 percent of Cuban economy.

A companion bill will also be introduced on Monday in the Senate by a broad bipartisan group of 46 senators led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

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