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January 28, 2009 

Parties File Amicus Brief in Florida Travel Act Case

The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and USA*Engage have filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in support of the plaintiffs in the case of Faculty Senate of Florida International University vs. the State of Florida.

The case involves the Florida Travel Act, a law passed by the Florida legislature in 2006 intended to restrict academic travel from Florida to Cuba and other countries designated by the U.S. State Department as sponsors of international terrorism.

In August 2008, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida overturned most of the Florida Travel Act on grounds that the "Travel Act's restrictions on the use of "nonstate" sourced funds . . . is an impermissible sanction on the designated countries and serves as an obstacle to the objectives of the federal government."

The brief states that federal actions including the Trading With the Enemy Act, the Cuban Democracy Act and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations preempt the Florida Travel Act, but also contends, “even beyond the preemptive effect of the existing federal statutory and regulatory regime, the Florida Travel Act represents an impermissible effort by Florida to adopt its own distinct foreign policy.”

“The Constitution leaves little doubt as to which level of government was to address issues of ingress and egress with respect to our national borders,” reads the NFTC brief. “While states have the authority to adopt policies with incidental effects on foreign travel, there is nothing indirect or incidental about the Florida Travel Ban. It is an avowed effort to do the federal government one better when it comes to travel to state sponsors of terrorism. Under the constitutional scheme, Florida’s rejection of the national policy is plainly impermissible.”

The NFTC and USA*Engage also argue that though the Florida Travel Act was intended to address Cuba-related foreign policy concerns, the law has a broader, more intrusive impact, as it applies to all state sponsors of terrorism, who are subject to varying federal regulatory and legal regimes.

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