Commentary: Time to remove travel restrictions to Cuba

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Lawmakers in Washington are showing once again how difficult it is to change U.S. policy toward Cuba in meaningful ways. The latest legislative proposal moving through Congress would kill enforcement of regulations that restrict travel to Cuba by Cuban Americans. This is an objective we have long championed, but Congress has picked the worst way to go about it – making it impossible to enforce existing regulations without tackling the regulations themselves.

The proposal, which also eases other travel and economic restrictions in smaller ways, is included in a huge budget bill passed by the House and headed to the Senate. Unfortunately, the provisions affecting Cuba policy are the result of a backroom deal that circumvented a full debate on the issue. On their own, as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, noted, the travel measures wouldn't win majority approval. This legislative gimmick ensures that Cuba policy will remain the target of efforts to tinker around the edges, at the expense of thoughtful change.

Instead, we recommend as a first step that President Barack Obama fulfill the promise he made in an Other Views column published in The Miami Herald on Aug. 21, 2007: "I will grant Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island."

The existing restrictions do little to advance the cause of freedom for Cuba, but they place an unfair burden on Cuban Americans who want to see their friends and families and ease their hardship. From both a humanitarian and strategic viewpoint, they have little justification.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.