WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
14 Jul 2011 |

Voices against Limiting Family Travel and Remittances to Cuba

On July 12th, a full-page ad ran in El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language edition of The Miami Herald, urging President Obama to block a “cruel and discriminatory” amendment that would restrict family travel and remittances to Cuba. The ad calls on Cuban Americans to write to President Obama in support of his family reunification policy and to urge him to strongly oppose the measure.

On Wednesday of this week, the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget went on record to show that the White House has similar feelings. Their statement makes clear that, if the bill arrives on the President’s desk with this amendment intact, his advisors will recommend a veto.

The proposed amendment would overturn President Obama’s April 2009 executive order allowing unlimited family travel and remittances for Cuban Americans. It would permit visits to family in Cuba only once every three years, and limit the amount of financial support that Cuban-Americans can send to relatives on the island. It will, says the ad, “divide Cuban families and obstruct the free flow of ideas.”

The measure was proposed by Representative Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL) and incorporated by voice vote into the FY2012 Financial Services Appropriations Bill at a committee hearing on June 23rd. It has not yet gone to the House floor.

The ad (reproduced below, followed by an English translation) in El Nuevo Herald is sponsored by The Cuban American Commission for Family Rights, a non-profit organization made up of a wide coalition of Cuban Americans from South Florida whose mission is to “preserve the integrity of Cuban families.”'

Learn more about the amendment here.

Download a copy of the ad.

Cuban-American residents of South Florida:
Your right to travel to Cuba to visit your family is in danger of being suspended!

It is urgent that we inform you that Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), has proposed an amendment to legislation now before the Congress to that would restrict your right to visit your family and limit the amount of money you can send them. If this amendment becomes law, you will only be able to visit your family once every three years, and your visit will be limited to fourteen days. We consider this amendment to be cruel and discriminatory, as it only prohibits travel to Cuba based on a person’s birthplace or their family’s origins. if the law with this amendment is approved by the Congress, no other group, including other U.S. citizens who are authorized to travel to Cuba, would be affected . 

This amendment will affect our state’s economy as well, as it will severely impact employment for many small businesses, including stores, insurance companies, printers, airport workers and many, many others.

We know that the majority of Cuban Americans support travel to Cuba, and that more than 300,000 traveled there in 2010. Support President Obama and his family reunification policy. If you agree, please copy the following letter that we are sending to the President and mail it with your signature to: President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20500. You can send it by fax to 1 202 456-2461 or call and comment at 202-456-1111.

Don’t forget to register to vote so that your rights relating to this issue and other important issues for our community are respected.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama: 

Three months after you came to office, you fulfilled a campaign promise byissuing an executive order that helped reunite Cuban families in this country and on the island. We are very grateful to you for taking this difficult step;as every serious poll shows, thanks to this action, you can count on the support of a broad majority of our community. 

Now we turn to you again because we are concerned, after learning about the newly proposed amendment from Miami Representative Mario Diaz-Balart. This cruel and inhumane measure will annul your executive order and return us to the times when families were separated without reason. Rep. Diaz-Balart is trying to go back to a law that divided Cuban families. The amendment would limit Cuban American travel to once every three years, regardless of the purpose of the travel , even for emergency situations. It would also limit who can be considered a family member for the purpose of travel, which many of us find deeply troubling. 

Mr. President, we know that you are an exemplary parent and that you understand how important our loved ones are to all of us. For this reason, we are sure that you will take the necessary steps to communicate with members of Congress and ask them NOT to support this terrible amendment. We feel that this is an emergency situation, which is why we ask that you use your influence to guarantee that this Cuba issue be eliminated from the Financial Services Appropriations Bill before it reaches the Senate.

You have our FULL SUPPORT in South Florida and also the support of the Cuban people, as many on the island have asked our community to continue supporting a FREE travel policy and to fight for the elimination of the language added to the bill by Rep. Diaz-Balart.

In the end, what this bill would do is divide Cuban families once again and obstruct the free flow of positive ideas that currently takes place between people on both sides. We, the people, are the best ambassadors to represent the values of our countries. This reversal cannot be permitted to happen. This amendment will surely hurt many Cubans and many Cuban Americans, but it will also cause great damage to our country.

Thank you.

*The Cuban American Commission for Family Rights is a non-profit organization made up of a wide coalition of Cuban Americans from Southern Florida. It was established to denounce restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. The organization’s mission is “to preserve the integrity of Cuban families and to work against those who wish to divide them.”