Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dear Colleague Letter in Support of a General License for Purposeful Travel

From: The Honorable Sam Farr

Sent By:

Date: 3/21/2013

Dear Colleague:

Over the past four years, President Obama has issued a series of policy changes aimed at bringing US-Cuba relations into the 21st century. Please join me in signing this letter thanking the President for these policy changes and encouraging him to take the next step by using his executive authority to allow all categories of permissible travel to be carried out under a general license.

In 2009, President Obama announced Reaching Out to the Cuban People, a set of policy changes that fully restored the rights of Cuban-Americans to visit their families in Cuba and send them unlimited remittances. This has resulted in the reunification of hundreds of thousands of families and has provided the capital for Cubans to take advantage of economic reforms in Cuba and start their own businesses.

In 2011, President Obama took another important step by reauthorizing purposeful travel for all Americans, fostering meaningful people-to-people interaction between American and Cuban citizens. But these trips require a specific license granted to specialized travel service providers*. Unfortunately, the licensing process has reportedly been expensive, slow, cumbersome, and arbitrary, causing delays and – in some cases cancellations- of trips that enable Americans to exercise their right to purposeful travel to Cuba.

Please join me in signing this letter encouraging President Obama to resolve this problem by allowing all current categories of permissible travel, including people-to-people, to be carried out under a general license.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Caitie Whelan ( in my office.


Member of Congress

* licensees are not “travel service providers”, legally a different licensed category of tour operators which book tickets and programs for people to people groups, etc.  J McA


President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We are writing on the fourth anniversary of Reaching Out to the Cuban People to thank you for instituting unlimited family travel to Cuba and eliminating restrictions on remittances by Cuban-Americans for their families. These changes have helped Cubans heal the wounds of generations and fostered the ability of untold thousands of Cubans to live more economically independent lives. Now, it is time to fully support American citizens’ purposeful travel to Cuba, and we encourage you to allow all current categories of permissible travel, including people-to-people, to be carried out under a general license.

Since the final Reaching Out to the Cuban People regulations were adopted on September 3, 2009, hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans have taken advantage of this opportunity to reunite with family every year. Moreover, as economic reforms in Cuba have opened opportunities for Cuban citizens to leave state jobs and work in small enterprises, family remittances have provided the capital for Cubans to start their own businesses. In addition, your decision in 2011 to open some categories of travel for all Americans has been an important step towards enabling civil society in both countries to become acquainted and work together in areas from science and environmental protection to religion, culture, and art.

Changes have occurred in Cuba, as well. Namely, in January of this year, Cuba rescinded restrictions on most Cubans’ foreign travel, including to the United States – a step the US and others have encouraged the island nation to do for many years. This action gives your Administration a predicate for doing more. 

Exercising your executive authority to allow all current categories of permissible travel, including people-to-people, to be carried out under the general license is the next logical step.

This action would speed the processes you have already unleashed: increasing opportunities for engagement and reconciliation, while also helping Cubans create more jobs and opportunities to further expand their independence.

Thank you for your commitment to bringing our foreign policy into the 21st century and promoting diplomacy through the best resource our country has to offer: the American people.


1. Karen Bass, D-CA-37

2. Timothy Bishop D-NY-1

3.  Capps D-CA-42

4.  Capuano D-MA-7

5.  Castor D-FL-14

6.  Yvette Clarke D-NY-9

7.  Clay D-MO-1

8.  Cleaver D-MO-5

9.  Cohen D-TN-9

10.  Conyers D-MI-13

11.  Danny Davis D-IL-7

12.  DeLauro D-CT-3

13.  Donna Edwards D-MD-4

14.  Ellison D-MN-5

15.  Eshoo D-CA-18

16.  Farr D-CA-20

17.  Fattah D-PA-2

18.  Garamendi D-CA-3

19.  Grijalva D-AZ-3

20.  Holt D-NJ-12

21.  Honda D-CA-17

22.  Huffman D-CA-2

23.  Hank Johnson D-GA-4

24.  Kaptur D-OH-9

25.  Langevin D-RI-2

26.  Lee D-CA-13

27.  John Lewis D-GA-5

28.  Carolyn Maloney D-NY-12

29.  Markey D-MA-5

30.  McCollum D-MN-4

31.  McDermott D-WA-7

32.  McGovern D-MA-2

33.  Meeks D-NY-5

34.  Michaud D-ME-2

35.  George Miller D-CA-11

36.  Moran D-VA-8

37.  Nadler D-NY-10

38.  Napolitano D-CA-32

39.  Neal D-MA-1

40.  Nolan D-MA-8

41.  Norton D-DC

42.  Pingree D-ME-1

43.  Pocan D-WI-2

44.  Polis D-CO-2

45.  David Price D-NC-4

46.  Rangel D-NY-13

47.  Rush D-IL-1

48. Schakowsky D-IL-9

49.  Bobby Scott D-VA-3

50.  Serrano D-NY-15

51.  Slaughter D-NY-25

52.  Speier D-CA-14

53. Bennie Thompson D-MS-2

54.  Mike Thompson D-CA-5

55.  Waters D-CA-43

56.  Watt D-NC-12

57.  Waxman D-CA-33

58.  Welch D-VT

59.  Yarmuth D-KY-3

If your Representative is not yet on this list, please call her or his office and ask why not:  202-224-3121.  Call once a week until you receive a satisfactory answer.  (If already on the list, call to say thanks.)  --JMcA

A sample memo to a member of Congress:

The Case for Signing the Dear Colleague Letter by Rep. Sam Farr

1)  Rep. xxx has been a long time advocate of freedom of travel to Cuba, serving as a prominent cosponsor of the last legislative effort to end restrictions.

2)  There is no hope that legislation to end travel restrictions will be adopted by a Republican controlled House.

3)  The President has the power to authorize any kind of travel that is purposeful, i.e. within the thirteen categories codified into law in 2000.

4)  Only the President, through his instructions to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, determines the way licensing is authorized.  Bush tightened licensed travel to near death.  Obama restored it to life.

5)  The President granted general licenses to Cuban Americans, universities and religious organizations.  They do not have to apply or report to the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

6)  By the stroke of a pen he can extend the same right to all other forms of purposeful travel, e.g. people to people, athletic, cultural, conferences.  To qualify, individuals and organizations would simply have to affirm they are not going to Cuba for tourist purposes.

7)  Still precluded would be large scale commercial sun and sand holidays.

8)  This would remove travel from the bureaucratic politically sensitive hands of the Office of Foreign Assets Control which second guesses in advance the motives of American citizens (prior censorship).  Members of Congress who oppose all travel might continue to fume about high visibility travelers like Beyonce and Jay-Z, but they could not blame the Administration.

9)  Constituents of Rep. xxx will benefit from removing bureaucratic control over travel.  YYY spent months seeking renewal of its People to People license, justifying every moment of its completed programs and fine tuning future ones.  Significant business was lost and staff had to be laid off.  Others have faced the same months long process which OFAC explains on grounds of limited personnel rather than its own overwrought procedures.

10)  The current licensing system forces Americans to participate in structured group tours that are organized by Cuban State companies, require staying in State hotels, and favor eating in State restaurants.  Needless to say the Cubans influence strongly what is included in programs.

11)  A general license  will allow individuals, families and groups of friends to organize their own program.  They will be able to stay in privately owned bed and breakfasts (casas particulares), and will tend to use privately owned restaurants (paladars).  They will be able to rent cars and use public buses and trains, just like Canadians and Europeans.  In other words they will have a more spontaneous grass roots unsupervised people to people experience and contribute far less to the State budget. 

12)  General license trips will also be considerably less expensive, opening the door for a far wider range of American visitors from back packers to fixed income retirees.  Direct flights from other cities' airports will become economically viable rather than being limited to Florida with its high concentration of Cuban Americans.

13)  Signature of the Dear Colleague letter by a larger number of Representatives, including members of the House leadership, will enable the President to resist the intense pressure against liberalization of travel from the Cuban American lobby who do not represent opinion in their own community, much less the two-thirds of Americans who favor the end of all travel restrictions.

14)  Because of Cuba's migratory law reform last January, Cubans have more freedom to come to the US than Americans have to go to Cuba.

As always, if I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to call me.

Warm regards,

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