ACLU Applauds House Vote to Lift Cuban Travel Ban; Calls it Victory for Democracy in America and Cuba

July 25, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the House of Representatives today for its vote to remove travel restrictions to Cuba, calling the move an affirmation of the constitutional right to travel afforded all Americans by the First and Fifth Amendments.

“This is a significant victory for democracy and the Constitution,” said Timothy H. Edgar, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “We commend Congress for this amendment’s affirmation of American liberty and the new hope it gives for further contact between Americans and Cubans – contacts that will help inform Americans about Cuba and that will help open up Cuba to the ideas of freedom and democracy.”

The amendment, approved today, 240-186, was to the FY2002 Treasury/Postal Appropriations Bill (HR 2590) and will remove all funding to the enforcement of the travel ban. The amendment was offered by Reps. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Howard Berman (D-CA).

Previous to today’s vote, the Supreme Court has, on several occasions, upheld the right to travel as a basic constitutional freedom enshrined in the First and Fifth Amendments that cannot be limited without due process. Justice William Douglas described freedom of movement as “the very essence of our society, setting us apart?it often makes all other rights meaningful.”

“The decision to travel is one that must rest with the individual,” Edgar said. “The government should only restrict our right to voyage abroad if we’re going to land in a war.”

Before today’s vote, the ban on travel to Cuba was an anomaly in Congress and the State Department’s policy on American travel. During the Cold War, for example, countries behind the Iron Curtain were fair game for American tourists, and, even today, hostile and repressive countries such as Iran or the Sudan can host American travelers without restriction.

“With the passage of the Flake Amendment, common sense has prevailed in Congress,” Edgar said. “Travel by Americans and others did not prop up Eastern Bloc regimes. Instead, it undermined Communism. Now, more ordinary Americans traveling to Cuba will do the same, discrediting the regime’s anti-American propaganda. Greater agitation in Cuba for the freedoms Americans enjoy – and that Castro denies to his people – can be the only result.”

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