More than 100 officers from Homeland security, the Treasury Department, Customs, Immigration and Border Patrol were on hand at the Hidalgo/Reynosa border crossing this morning, to welcomethe Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan, which is challenging the travel ban against Cuba. |
After three hours of meticulous searching through each item in every caravanistas luggage, the federal officers confiscated about a dozen items such as a book of Cuban poetry, a paper flag on a stick, a bag made in China that had the name Cuba on it, maracas, and a tambourine made in Mexico.
The aid the caravan was bringing back as a gift from the people of Cuba sixty-five one-pound bags of Cuban coffee and ninety-one plastic teddy bears jars of Cuban honey were also seized.
We were astonished by the number of agents made available this morning, said Lucius Walker, Executive Director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. At a time when our nation is in economic crisis and supposedly fighting a war on terrorism, it is immoral that our government wasted a days salary of more than 100 officers to monitor a group of peaceful US citizens who are exercising their constitutional right to travel.
As elderly women were forced to answer questions about where they bought each individual item of clothing in their suitcase, young girls were brought to tears by insistent questioning. An underage minor was separated from her guardian and coerced into signing a form.
Despite threats from the Bush Administration, Pastors for Peace delivered over 100 tons of humanitarian aid and visited schools and hospitals in Cuba. This year marked the 15th Anniversary of the caravans to Cuba.
Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a national ecumenical agency based in Harlem. Since 1992, the group has educated US citizens about the immorality of current US policy toward Cuba.