Vic JohnsonNAFSA’s Senior Advisor for Public Policy, Vic Johnson, spoke yesterday at a press conference hosted by the Emergency Coalition to Defend Educational Travel (ECDET). The press conference, which brought together experts on the topic of academic travel to Cuba, was held at the National Press Club and called for the elimination of current restrictions on educational travel to Cuba. Other speakers included Wayne Smith (Chairman of EDCET), Robert Muse, William LeoGrande, Gareth Jenkins, and Dave Parry.

As Johnson stated during yesterday’s press conference, “there was no Cuba exception to the President’s statement to students in Turkey that ‘exchanges can break down the walls between us.’”

Enumerating the reasons why the current restrictions on academic travel should be lifted, Johnson stated that the retention of these restrictions, “serves no articulated foreign policy, hemispheric, or public diplomacy purpose of this administration… precludes the very kinds of exchanges that the United States has used with demonstrable success to foster and support political change in other nondemocratic societies, and denies American students and academics the opportunity to know another society whose evolution will impact our country.”

Yesterday’s press conference was well timed to current discussions about U.S. policy towards Cuba. The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to take up a bill tomorrow that was introduced recently by Representatives Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to restore the right of all Americans to travel to Cuba and expand agricultural exports to Cuba (H.R. 4645). NAFSA supports this legislation that would open the door for   travel to Cuba, and in so doing would also re-establish opportunities for educational exchanges with the island-nation.

Take a moment today to write your Representative and ask him/her to support the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act.