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10/16/08

Federal Judge Suspends Florida Travel Law: "Likely Unconstitutional"

By Patrick Disney, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

Washington DC - A federal judge in Florida has suspended a law that would have imposed stringent restrictions on local travel agencies that sell trips to Iran and Cuba, calling it "likely unconstitutional." 

U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold barred enforcement of the law, which easily passed the state legislature and was signed into law in June, on the grounds that the federal government is responsible for foreign policy, not the states.

The law's provisions would have required travel agents to pay a $1,000 registration fee and secure at least a $250,000 security bond to book trips to any of the officially-designated "State Sponsors of Terrorism"--including Iran, Cuba, Syria, North Korea, and Sudan.  Implementation of the law has been repeatedly postponed due to ongoing legal challenges since its passage. 

Local travel agents, as well as national organizations like the American Society of Travel Agents, argued that the law discriminated against them because it would have increased their costs significantly.  Fees for travel agencies that book trips to other locations are much lower. 

In a public statement, Ira Kurzban, the attorney representing 16 Florida travel agencies, said he hoped the judge's ruling would stop state lawmakers' attempts to "legislate in the field of foreign affairs."  "The injunction means that travel to Cuba [and Iran] will continue unrestricted and that federal regulation, not state law, will govern those trips." 

The Iranian American Bar Association had also called for the law to be reversed in July, urging the government of Florida "to reconsider this potentially damaging policy which hinders a much needed, increased understanding between the peoples of [the US and Iran] vis--vis each other."   

For now, the ruling will prevent Florida from enforcing the law until a trial officially determines its constitutionality.  No date has been scheduled for a trial as of yet. 

Though media accounts of the controversy surrounding this law have focused on Cuba, the law's provisions would have affected a large number of the estimated 70,000 Iranian Americans living in Florida--the state of Florida is comprised of the sixth largest Iranian-American population in the United States. 

... Payvand News - 10/16/08 ... --



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