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Cuban Exiles in Jax Hope For Travel Ban Lift

10:10 PM, May 2, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Will we soon see Cuban planes landing at JIA?

Rumblings about lifting the travel ban have grown louder from Cuba over the past few days, and the news has Cuban Exiles in Jacksonville holding their breath.

"This is a very hopeful sign. Cubans are desperate to leave for various reasons," said Dr. Javier Garcia-Bengochea.

His family fled the country on November 7, 1960, when he was just one year old.

Much of his extended family remains in the country, and while he would love them to come to Jacksonville, he's not sure how Cuba would be able to lift all the travel restrictions currently in place.

"The question is, how does that happen without a mass exodus?" he asked.

For the past 12 years, the United States has allowed 25,000 Cubans to seeks asylum here each year.

The first year of the program 900,000 Cubans applied.

For that reason alone, immigration attorney Richard Ruth is not convinced the change in travel policy will happen.

"There have been several promises made in the past of changes being made to the exit visa system, and the restriction that entails and nothing has come of it," he said.

He says any change in the United States' policy would have to come from the top.

"Thus far the Obama Administration has been mum because they have not been able to see specifically what changes will be coming," he said.

President Obama did lift some restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba in 2009, but for Dr. Garcia, going back to his home country would be a challenge.

"Any American traveling to Cuba will not have the freedoms and rights that they expect or certainly that they enjoy here in the developed world," he said.  

Waiting for the change, he's hopeful.

"The situation is going to be resolved. I think there's too much at stake," he said.

First Coast News

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