U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford joins effort to remove U.S.-Cuba travel ban

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford has joined the bipartisan effort to lift the ban on American travel to Cuba that has been in place for more than 50 years.

Sanford, R-S.C., said travel is a matter of personal liberty, which is why he is backing the proposed “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act.”

“Unless there is an overwhelming threat to national security, every United States citizen has the constitutional right to free travel as they, not the federal government, see fit,” Sanford said Thursday.

“In this regard, I believe this issue is important in the unending fight to protect and defend American liberties too often threatened by federal power,” Sanford said.

Sanford is one of several co-sponsors of the House bill that will be introduced Monday. The measure is companion legislation to its Senate counterpart, which was introduced Thursday by a bipartisan group of eight senators.

President Barack Obama late last year announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than 50 years. While some travel by Americans is allowed, Obama has suggested full diplomatic relations and recognitions be restored. A trade embargo also remains in place that can only be reversed by congressional action.

The issue of allowing Cuban travel is not be a slam dunk in Congress where there is both Republican and Democratic opposition. The debate could also arise as part of the presidential election season.

Supporters say ending the travel ban would help lead to change in the Communist island nation, while opponents say it would reinforce the Castro regime.

Sanford said it was important to make the change as a matter of federal law because Obama’s lifting of the travel ban might last only for the remaining 23 months of his presidency.

“The Treasury Department’s travel restrictions were born of the Cold War and the threat of Communism in the early 1960s,” Sanford’s statement said. “They were put in place in 1963 and given that this time has passed, so too should this travel moratorium. Cuba currently is the only country on Earth to which our federal government prohibits travel.”

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.