The U.S. Customs Service was established by the first Congress shortly after the Revolution, yet when their modern-day counterparts meet to hash over the budget impasse, they worry about emergency funding to national parks and Head Start -- ignoring what men and women of George Washington's era regarded as an essential government service: the plight of Americans stranded in foreign countries.
Just ask Florida businessman Michael McGhee.
McGhee was ferrying a yacht back to the United States from the Dominican Republic and pulled into the Cayman Islands Tuesday night with engine trouble. He found himself persona non grata and told by Cayman officials to "go back to the boat and wait" until the budget impasse is over and U.S. Customs computers come back online. This would allow the Cayman officials to check the U.S. passports of McGhee and his four-person crew.
"They said the U.S. does not have service at this time," McGhee said. "I said, 'Well, what does that limit me to?' They said, 'You have to restrict your crew to the vessel until you're notified.'"
McGhee owns Black Pearl Marine Specialties, a boat retrieval and repossession service. He has traveled throughout the Caribbean for 35 years.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life," he said, "and I've lived a long time. This is absolute insanity."