Hudson, congressional delegation not granted visas for Cuba visit

Published 12:10 am Thursday, June 30, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8, was among multiple members of Congress who weren’t granted visas last week to travel to Cuba and inspect security at airports.

During the trip, members of Congress would have inspected security and passenger screening at airports. The congressional delegation included Hudson and was scheduled to leave on June 24. In addition to inspecting airport security, the delegation would have also visited the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.

Hudson’s office was informed that visas were not granted in a phone call on June 23.

In a statement sent to the Salisbury Post, Hudson said he’s concerned that Cuba hasn’t done enough to guarantee the safety of Americans when they fly to the country.

“This is part of a pattern of the Obama Administration and the government of Cuba stonewalling proper oversight and hiding details of airport security arrangements,” Hudson said about visas not being granted. “This lack of transparency to the American people is troubling and begs the question: Are they concealing something or simply negligent to the glaring security inadequacies? This is a country that has been a safe haven for terrorists and was only removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism about a year ago.”

He specifically pointed out that flights from Charlotte to Cuba are scheduled to start in a few months. Including other airports, more than 100 daily flights would occur between the U.S. and Cuba.

Congressional concerns about flights to Cuba include whether there’s adequate body scanners, explosive detections systems and technology to screen for fraudulent passports.

“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,” said Homeland Security Committee Chariman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, in a press release issued Friday. “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.”

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama became the first sitting American president in decades to visit Cuba. Obama has also attempted to ease restrictions on Cuba.

Cuba never officially denied visas for members of Congress. However, they were never granted. When publicizing the news, the Homeland Security Committee pointed out that celebrities have been allowed to visit Cuba but members of Congress have not been able to inspect security.

Hudson represents a majority of Rowan County residents and was the only member of Congress from North Carolina who was scheduled to go on the Cuba trip. Hudson’s office said he was invited on the trip because of a previous chairmanship of the Transportation Security Subcommittee and knowledge on aviation security.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.