Cuba Eases Restrictions on Travel Controls: Implications for the United States

by Wayne Smith

As we have all seen, the Cuban government has just announced a significant easing of controls on the travel of Cubans abroad. Most significantly, most Cubans will no longer have to seek prior approval from the government. They will not need an official exit permit or a letter of invitation from a resident in their country of destination. They must now simply apply to the Cuban government for a passport and to the country of destination for a visa – like everyone else. Well, almost like everyone else. Cuban doctors and certain other professionals may not get passports so easily – and Cuban dissidents will doubtless face difficulties. Still, it is definitely a step in the right direction and the State Department has expressed approval.

The new regulations do, however, raise some interesting questions for the United States. One result almost certainly will be that there will be more Cubans arriving on our shores. In past years, under what has been called the “wet foot, dry foot policy,” any Cuban who reached our soil could be paroled in, i.e., could stay. Will that remain the case after January 14? State Department officials say they are studying the matter carefully.

There will be some increase, yes, but we are not facing a crisis here, as we did, say, during the Mariel sealift. Some hard-line Cuban-Americans are suggesting we should already slam the doors. That would be foolish – and unnecessary.  This is an eminently controllable situation – and one which should result in an improved situation – and perhaps even in an improved atmosphere.

 

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