Chairman McCaul’s Cuban Visa Crisis
The Obama Administration Fast Tracks Cuba Relations, but Cuban Government Slow Rolls Visas
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite President Obama opening friendly relations with Cuba, the Cuban government failed to approve visas for Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul (R-TX) and other Members of Congress to visit Havana to assess security and passenger screening at airports, which will soon have direct flights into the United States. The delegation planned to evaluate the potential risks to national security related to resuming commercial air service to Cuba.
The Obama Administration plans to open regularly scheduled commercial air service this fall between the two countries and designate ten new airports as Last Points of Departure (LPD) airports to the United States, with up to 110 daily flights between the U.S. and Cuba. LPD airports are of concern to the Homeland Security Committee as ISIS and other terror groups continue to target the aviation sector.
The Committee held a hearing on May 17, 2016 on these topics with DHS officials who refused to adequately comment on Cuban airport security.
Chairman McCaul: “At a time when the Obama Administration is rolling out the red carpet for Havana, the Cuban government refuses to be open and transparent with the peoples’ Representatives. Sadly, it appears to be easier for Cubans to come to the United States than for Members of the House Homeland Security Committee to get to Cuba. Last Points of Departure airports are critically important to our homeland security, but these security concerns seem to be taking a back seat to the President’s legacy building effort.”
Rep. John Katko (R-NY): “The Administration is eager to have as many people as possible visit Cuba – except for those who are attempting to examine Cuban security infrastructure. We still don’t know if Cuba has the adequate body scanners and explosive detection systems in place, whether it has the technology to screen for fraudulent passports or ID, whether or how aviation workers are screened, and if Federal Air Marshals will be allowed to fly missions to Cuba on commercial flights. This is a government that was only just removed as a state sponsor of terrorism list one year ago, and it is not enough to rely on the Castro regime’s word that these airports are secure.”