Washington, D.C.—The White House has captured the high ground by defending unrestricted travel for Cuban Americans, according to Cuba experts at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Latin America Working Group (LAWG). President Obama has stood up for Cuban Americans and for promoting engagement and political opening in Cuba.
Hardliners in Congress have backed down from their efforts to hold “Megabus” appropriations legislation hostage to a cruel, anti-family measure on Cuban-American travel. The provision would have overturned President Obama’s January 2011 executive order that lifted burdensome restrictions on Cuban-American travel to Cuba and remittances to the family members, while widening the definition of family. Returning to these Bush-era regulations would have been a major blow to Cuban Americans and to the relatives they visit in Cuba. Cuban-American families have made as many as 400,000 visits to see relatives on the island in 2011.
"Hardliners would be punishing Cuban families by cutting off human contact and reducing the remittances that help many families get by," said Mavis Anderson, senior associate for Cuba policy at LAWG. "The spectacular rise in Cuban-American travel and remittances has aided families and strengthened Cuban Americans’ position as advocates for dialogue and political opening in Cuba. Those who sought restrictive regulations were willfully ignoring these realities and clinging to obsolete ideology."
"The timing for attempting to pass these restrictions could not have been worse. The restrictions would have separated families just before the Christmas holidays, when so many Cuban Americans have plans to visit their close relatives in Cuba," said Geoff Thale, WOLA's Cuba expert. "By standing up to this cruel attempt by hardliners to once again separate Cuban-American families, President Obama is doing the right thing for families and for our foreign policy. The take-away from this episode is that the Cuban-American community is as important to President Obama as it is to right-wing Republicans. And that community is changing," Thale concluded.
Program Director, WOLA
Senior Associate, LAWG
Director of Communications, WOLA
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