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Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, THE JUDICIARY, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 30, 2005)

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chairman, when we eliminate all the emotional rhetoric here on the floor, what we get to is this amendment. This amendment provides an economic lifeline to the dictatorship. By prohibiting OFAC from enforcing U.S. laws and regulations, this amendment removes those safeguards and it provides the Castro regime with the much needed currency to continue its reign of terror.

Prisoners of conscience are languishing in squalid cells in Cuba, and yet, what are we doing? We are going to bestow this pariah state another victory. Castro is very happy when we do these amendments. Former political prisoners in my Congressional district who endured the most inhumane treatment are the first ones to oppose any weakening of these restrictions.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the Davis amendment.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend from Florida for yielding time.

Mr. Chairman, this amendment is prospective. It seeks to prohibit the use of funds on something that may or may not happen, may be looser, may be stricter, legislating on hypotheticals. And once again, U.S. law already allows individual members of religious organizations to travel to Cuba for religious purposes. The only requirement is that they have a specific license. That is a safeguard in U.S. law to ensure that travel is in fact for the stated purposes, and not for the purposes of tourism.

The regulations ensure that financial donations are not provided to the regime under the guise of religious activity. Current law seeks to prevent the manipulation of legitimate activities to practice or share as one believes about the Cuban people.

The practice of religion should be reaching out, in solidarity, in total respect for the fundamental rights of each and every human being. But what happens in Cuba? The Cuban people continue to live mired in misery and oppression. In Cuba, people are denied their freedom of conscience, their freedom of belief, their freedom of religion. They are persecuted, prosecuted for those beliefs because they run contrary to the Communist doctrine.

Proponents of this amendment and others seeking to revoke U.S. policy toward the Castro dictatorship argue that they are doing it to help the Cuban people. But when we speak of helping the Cuban people, Mr. Chairman, we need to focus on the freedom of the Cuban people. Help is liberty. Help is helping to ensure that every Cuban can speak their minds, not be imprisoned or threatened or beaten to death for it. Help is ensuring that the Cuban people are permitted to practice their religion in true freedom. That is not taking place in Cuba right now.

I urge my colleagues to vote against this amendment. This amendment will just free, open so much of the lawlessness that is going on with the permitting process. It promotes lawlessness because it states we are not going to regulate it in the future. We do not know what will happen.

Reject this amendment.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chairman, with over 160,000 American students studying abroad each year, the United States acknowledges the potential contribution of true educational exchanges, and Cuba is no exception.

Under current law, educational activities by American students in Cuba are permitted. In fact, under current law, these activities are enhanced by regulating the manner in which students may fulfill these study semesters abroad. Therefore, if it is truly the opportunity for education that the Lee amendment attempts to preserve, then I would like to respectfully remind my colleagues here today that American students are afforded this opportunity through the implementation of current regulations.

The regulations in place merely serve to ensure that those students traveling for educational purposes are doing just that. Current law establishes that specific licenses for educational activities be preserved for undergraduate and graduate institutions. These measures were enacted and must been enforced to prevent the abuse of educational activities such as spring break getaways and island shopping sprees.

I urge my colleagues to join me in voting ``no'' for the Lee amendment because educational travel is already permitted.

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