Senate Introduces Bill To Lift Cuba Travel Restrictions

by Richard D'Ambrosio
Senate Introduces Bill To Lift Cuba Travel Restrictions

Havana (La Habana), Cuba. Photo: Jorge Royan.

The movement toward freeing up travel to Cuba gained momentum this week as Senate members introduced a bill that would remove the remaining travel restrictions to the country.

The bill, called the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, was originally introduced in 2015 by eight co-sponsors but never moved to the Senate floor for discussion or a vote.

Then in 2016, the Obama Administration eased trade restrictions and allowed travel to Cuba for a limited variety of travel, including family visits, educational and humanitarian activities, official U.S. government business and professional research.

President Trump has hinted at reversing these measures, leading many politicians and travel industry officials who support open travel to Cuba to grow concerned. Currently, the Trump administration has only said that Cuba travel restrictions were "under review."

The bill would need the support of five more senators to advance, but faces fierce opposition from anti-Castro Cuban-American lawmakers such as Sens. Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez.

In a statement, Sen. Flake said that “Recognizing the inherent right of Americans to travel to Cuba isn’t a concession to dictators, it is an expression of freedom. It is Americans who are penalized by our travel ban, not the Cuban government.”

“Lifting the ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba can pave the way to meaningful change by increasing contact between Cubans and everyday Americans, and it is certain to have positive benefits for the island’s burgeoning entrepreneurial and private sector.”

A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives January 1, 2017, by Rep. Mark Sanford reads “the President may not prohibit or otherwise regulate, directly or indirectly, travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or legal residents.”

The House bill also states that “any regulation in effect on such date of enactment that prohibits or otherwise regulates travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or legal residents, or any of the transactions incident to such travel, including banking transactions, shall cease to have any force or effect.”

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