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Lynne Sladky, Associated Press
Liedy Hernandez of Miami waits in line with luggage at Miami International Airport before traveling to Cuba with her family, Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, in Miami. As the holidays approach this year, thousands of Cuban-Americans are taking advantage of the Obama administration's relaxed travel regulations to return to the island.

MIAMI — 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.