Kathy Castor among group of Congress members calling on Obama to relax travel restrictions to Cuba

The members of Congress note that the Cuban government recently rescinded restrictions on most Cubans' foreign travel — including to the U.S. — and that action "gives your administration a predicate for doing more."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," the letter goes on to state.

The request for President Obama to liberalize travel laws for Americans to go to Cuba is concurrent with a push by activists from around the country to remove Cuba from the State Department's list of countries supporting terrorist groups.

The lead congressman's signature on the letter is Democrat Sam Farr from Monterey, Calif. Most others who have signed the letter represent the progressive wing of the Democratic party, including Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee from California, Keith Ellison from Minnesota, Raul Grijalva from Arizona, and Ed Markey from Massachusetts. Markey won the Democratic race for Senate in Massachusetts last night, and will go on to the special general election next month against Republican Gabriel Gomez. The winner replaces Secretary of State John Kerry as the next senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Ironically, Kerry is the official who will make determine whether or not to remove Cuba from the list of countries supporting terrorism.

  • Kathy Castor

Tampa's Kathy Castor made news a month ago when she called for an end to the 51-year U.S. embargo on Cuba, being the first Florida lawmaker to do so. She's continuing her activism on the issue by co-signing a letter to President Obama asking him to expand the current travel policy for Americans who travel to the island.

The authors said they sent the letter on the fourth anniversary of Obama relaxing the travel restrictions upon Cuban-Americans returning to their homeland, reversing laws set in place by George W. Bush in 2004. In 2011, Obama further loosened such restrictions, allowing students, academics and religious organizations to more freely request a trip to Cuba, as well as "specific licensing for a greater scope of journalistic activities." In addition, people in the U.S. are now allowed to send up to $500 in remittances to Cuba every three months, or a maximum of $2000 a year. In 2009, the Obama administration eased restrictions to allow Cuban Americans to visit relatives on the island.

But Castor and 58 of her congressional colleagues want more. In their letter, they asked the president to allow "all current categories of permissible travel, including people-to-people, to be carried out under a general license."

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