Sarah Stephens, Executive Director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, has reported that Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) will support legislation allowing family-related travel to Cuba, “The Cuban-American Family Rights Restoration Act,” sponsored by Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA).
According to a press release, Congressman Burton made the commitment to Sarah Stephens and Sgt. Carlos Lazo, a Cuban-American and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dan Burton was the author of the Helms-Burton Law — and thus his move towards opening up people-to-people contact is quite significant.
In my view, it is not enough to open up “travel rights” for a certain ethnic class of Americans. In fact, I have a hard time believing it is constitutional to permit discrimination among Americans on an ethnic basis when it comes to international travel — but Burton’s move does represent some progress in an enlightened direction.
Here is the full press release:
For Immediate Release
March 22, 2007
Sarah Stephens, 202-234-5506
Carlos Lazo, 425-791-1217
Author of Helms Burton Law to Support Family Travel to Cuba;
Breakthrough Reported by Center for Democracy in the Americas and Sgt. Carlos Lazo
Washington, DC — Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) will support legislation that will permit Cuban-Americans to travel Cuba to visit family members, The Center for Democracy in the Americas reported today.
Burton made the commitment to Sgt. Carlos Lazo, a Cuban-American and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who won a Bronze Star for his valor at the Battle of Fallujah, and to Sarah Stephens, executive director of The Center for Democracy in the Americas, at a meeting at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
He reaffirmed his decision to support the legislation in a meeting with Sgt. Lazo and Ms. Stephens at his office today. Burton has also communicated his position to Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA), author of “The Cuban-American Family Rights Restoration Act” and Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) an advocate of unrestricted travel.
“The Congressman has been a consistent advocate for the cause of bringing democracy to Cuba and to the Cuban government,” Sgt. Lazo said. “With Congressman Burton’s strong support of the Delahunt legislation, we can take the huge step of promoting people-to-people contact between Cuban-Americans visitors to Cuba and people on the island, which will help promote the cause of democracy in Cuba.”
“When the author of the Helms-Burton law lends his support to opening up Cuba to travel,” Sarah Stephens said, “it opens up political space for members on both sides of the aisle to support changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba. We strongly believe that free and unrestricted travel for all American should be the norm, but we are also pleased to see progress on the issue of family unification to help bring together Cuban-American families with their kin on the island.”
Sarah Stephens is the executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) whose Freedom to Travel campaign advocates unrestricted travel to Cuba. CDA recently released: “In the National Interest: The Top Ten Reasons for Changing U.S. Policy Toward Cuba” http://www.thecubatopten.com/. Information about Sgt. Carlos Lazo can be found at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-stephens/no-way-to-treat-a-soldier_b_2817.html.
— Steve Clemons