During his recent trip to Europe, President Kennedy observed in a speech delivered in West Berlin that the United States had never found it necessary to erect walls to keep its citizens in. He was, unfortunately, mistaken. Our walls are not built of bricks and cement, and they are not topped with broken glass, but they are walls just the same.
The most noxious of our walls is the one we have built around Cuba. It is a paper wall, erected in the offices of the State Department, and its sole functions to keep Americans out of Cuba. Americans who travel to that island without a specially validated passport face, on their return, fines of up to five thousand dollars, jail terms of up to five years, or both.
Ostensibly, the purpose of the travel ban is to protect Americans; we have no diplomatic representatives in Cuba. But the evidence indicates that the risks involved in a trip to Cuba are minimal. Freedom of movement is a corollary to freedom of speech, to the all-important right to inform oneself. The government's policy on travel to Cuba is an unwarranted invasion of individual rights.
The 59 American students now touring Cuba at the expense of the Cuban government will, in all likelihood, be punished when they return. The Administration, if it prosecutes them, will both make itself look silly and perform a priceless propaganda service to the Castro regime.