"The president would like to see greater freedom for the Cuban people. There are actions that he can and has taken today to open up the flow of information to provide some important steps to help that," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
The changes mean 1.5 million Cuban Americans are now allowed unlimited travel to the island. Under President Bush they were allowed one visit every three years. And they can send as much money as they want.
The policy will also allow U.S. cell phone, satellite and computer companies to do business with Cuba. But the nearly 50-year old economic embargo will not change.
"The Cuban people need freedom. They need democracy," said Dr. Andrés Cornejo.
Drs. Andrés Cornejo and his wife Zoraida fled Cuba in 1959 when Fidel Castro took power. Over the years, they have supported America's tough approach toward the communist regime. But are frustrated that the embargo has not been enough to force Castro out.
"The trade embargo is a good idea, but it's not working. They are trading with every country in the world except with the U.S. They get everything from Spain, Argentina, Venezuela," said Dr. Zoraida Cornejo.
Zoraida visited Cuba 20 years after she left and says she was shocked to see how conditions had deteriorated. She doesn't plan to visit again now that it's easier to travel.
But the couple says the changes are good for uniting families and possibly creating pressure on the government to change.
"People are unhappy. They cannot survive on what they're doing. There has to be a change. Cuba has to change," said Dr. Andrés Cornejo.
Dr. Cornejo says he would like to see Cuba release people who have been jailed over the years for speaking out against the government. However, Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and current president of Cuba, shows no signs of making any fundamental changes.