A federal appeals court in Boston yesterday cleared the way for travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, throwing out Reagan administration trade regulations that had the effect of preventing travel there by most Americans.
Bert Neuborne, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, a party to the suit, said last night that "anyone who wants to go to Cuba can go now."
Regulations issued in April, 1982, by the Treasury Department in effect had prohibited travel to Cuba by almost all Americans with the exception of professionals, journalists and people with relatives on the island. Tourist and business travel was virtually eliminated.
A lawsuit against the regulations was filed in U.S. District Court in Boston by Harvard biology professor Ruth Hubbard Wald, who had planned to take a group of students to Cuba last summer, and by other individuals and groups interested in traveling there.
The regulations were upheld by the District Court. Yesterday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the lower court to issue a preliminary injunction against the regulations.
Leonard B. Boudin, chief lawyer for Wald and the other plaintiffs, argued that the Treasury regulations "prohibited travel that had been permitted under the Carter administration" and interfered with a citizen's constitutional right to travel.
The appeals court opinion said that in drawing up the regulations Treasury relied on the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act, "the relevant part of which had been repealed by the time it Treasury promulgated this regulation."
The administration had argued that a clause of the 1977 International Economic Powers Act allowed Treasury to use the 1917 act to issue the regulations.
But the appeals court said that the 1917 law does not apply and that the procedures under the 1977 act were not properly followed. "The regulations thus lack statutory authority," the court said.
The regulations prohibited most Americans from paying for "transportation-related" expenses "ordinarily incident to travel to and from Cuba" and for any other expenses "ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, including payment of living expenses and the acquisition in Cuba of goods for personal consumption there."
Neuborne said that the 1917 trade act was intended to allow the United States "to deny hard currency to countries when the president determines our interests would be harmed by that trade."
Brad Marman, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said last night that there has been no decision whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.