11 CRLN staff, board and members will travel to DC April 20-23 for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and advocate for legislation that would improve the lives of Cubans. You can help us by giving your permission by Tuesday, April 17 to sign your name onto letters we will deliver to members of Congress or call your Representatives to support House bills described below.
Background: In April of 1960, State Department officials wrote that the goal of the U.S. embargo of Cuba was “…to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government” (State Department, April 6, 1960). Today the Cuban people still experience shortages of many essentials including life-saving medicines and medical products.
When we meet with our legislators in DC or in district, we advocate for policies that benefit the people of our two countries. Even though polling shows that 96% of Cubans living on the island support lifting the trade embargo and have said that more tourism would benefit the local economy, President Trump announced in 2017 that “in solidarity with the Cuban people” the U.S. would add more barriers to trade and travel to Cuba. Since polling has also shown that 63% of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County oppose the continuation of the embargo and 73% of people in the U.S. favor ending the embargo we have to ask who is in favor of these restrictions?
CRLN has worked with faith communities in Cuba and the U.S. for more than twenty years to end harmful U.S. policies, believing that the human rights of Cubans and the people of the US would best be served by lifting all travel restrictions and finally ending the embargo.
We are seeking co-sponsors for the following legislation – We are asking legislators to co-sponsor the following bills that will end restrictions to trade and travel:
✱ The House Agriculture Exports Act (H.R. 525)
Introduced by Representative Eric A. Crawford (R-AR), the Crawford Bill, looks to repeal restrictions on export financing, allowing firms to offer credit to Cuba in connection with exports of U.S. agricultural goods. It also gives U.S. producers access to marketing programs that help them compete in foreign markets and eliminates restrictions to key federal funding used in financing exports to Cuba. Current Illinois representatives co-sponsoring are: Robin Kelly (D- IL 02), Rodney Davis (R-IL 13), Cheri Bustos (D- IL 17), Darin LaHood (R- IL 18), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL 08)
✱ The Cuba Trade Act (H.R. 442)
Reintroduced by Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Kathy Castor (D-FL), this bill would allow businesses in the U.S. private sector to trade freely with Cuba, while restricting taxpayer funds from being used on the promotion or development of the new market. It would lift the outdated embargo and resume the normalization process between the U.S. and Cuban economies, promoting business opportunities that benefit both countries. The current Illinois representative co-sponsoring is Darin LaHood (R-IL 18).
✱ The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 351)
Introduced by Representative Mark Sanford (R-SC), this bill, quite simply, removes travel restrictions to Cuba. This bill currently has no Illinois representatives co-sponsoring.
We are also asking legislators to urge the State Department to process visas for Cubans in the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The Trump Administration has ordered staff reductions at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba and at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC in response to health issues experienced by some personnel at the US Embassy in Havana. The FBI did not find any evidence linking the health issues to actions by the Cuban government during its three visits to the island. The investigation is continuing in both countries.
Since the US embassy has reduced staff, Cubans who want to get visas for tourist travel or permanent reunification with their families must travel to another country to get these visas. This has made it financially impossible for most Cubans to apply for a visa. While it is important to find out the cause of the health issues, there must be a way to assign personnel to the Embassy to process Cuban visas. Otherwise the U.S. has effectively created a travel ban against Cubans visiting the US for holiday or for family reunification.
For more information:
Statement by the Cuban Council of Churches regarding recent changes in US policy
A Cuban pastor’s response to President Trump’s Cuba policies
Church World Service Says New Restrictions on Cuban Travel Will Hurt the Cuban People and Churches https://cwsglobal.org/cws-statement-on-cuba-june-2017/
Catholic leaders: Dialogue between U.S. and Cuba must continue
US Conference of Catholic Bishops Cuba Backgrounder
U.S. Halt in Visa Services Leaves Cuban Families in Limbo https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/world/americas/cuba-us-visas.html
Cubans who want to visit the U.S. now face more difficult and expensive hurdles