Cuban-Americans Fly to the Island for Holidays

MIAMI (AP) _ Thousands of Cuban-Americans are flying to the island this week to celebrate the new year.

These types of annual pilgrimages would have been sharply curtailed if two South Florida, GOP Cuban-American congressmen had succeeded in returning to the Bush-era limit of once every three years.

The measure was tucked into the congressional spending bill. But Republican leaders jettisoned it last week in a last-minute compromise.

President Barack Obama allowed unlimited family visits by Cuban-Americans in 2009.

Exact numbers are difficult to come by, but the Cuban government said earlier this year it expected about 500,000 U.S. visitors.

The majority of them are Cuban-Americans. Cuban officials did not respond to requests for statistics from past years. They previously said there were nearly 300,000 visits from Cubans outside the island in 2009.