Greetings from the Ridge.
They thought they had it made and the worst was over. The family had been traveling for over a month to get here and had somehow survived exposure to the elements of the weather and the harsh conditions. It's tough to travel with little ones and when the odds and every force of nature seem to be against you the task is monumental. But here they were, at the very border of their new country at last.
Others who had made the journey before them told mixed versions of what sort of protocol the border guards would put into practice, but they were in no way prepared for what was to greet them in this, their chosen home.
The two kids looked on as their father and mother stood stunned. "We thought we could simply . . ."
"Then you have no immigration documents–no permission to enter the country. This makes you an illegal immigrant. You're under arrest."
Ever since the children were little their father had told them wonderful, almost unbelievable stories about this new land. He told them of how their grandfather and grandmother had come here years ago and the old couple was faithful in sending home messages of hope from their adopted country right up until their death. The little boy was often afraid of the dark and he would cry at night, but his father would sit on the edge of his son's bed and tell him of all the marvels that awaited him in this new world to where the family was headed. It always worked. The little girl's eyes would brighten when her mother told her splendid stories of how a young lady could have a real future in this new place they were going. "You can be anything you want to be, sweetheart." And that was the promise to which the whole family clung until they reached the border.
"You're under arrest." The words hit the father like a painful echo.
"But I've simply stepped into the country."
"Illegally, and that makes it a federal offense."
His wife looked at him in disbelief but he laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "That cannot be possible. All we did was travel here. Yes, we have no papers, but . . ."
"Your children will have to stay here while we process your case."
"My children! Why? Why must we be separated?"
"You now have a crime on your record and that means you must go to a federal jail until you can appear before a federal judge. But you can't keep your children with you in a federal prison."
The father's knees became weak. In his fear and confusion he could only mutter, "Dear God, help us."
The border guard smiled. "Ah! God! Even your own God says that you should obey the laws of your government. Illegal immigration is against the law."
The mother of the children shrieked. "No! No!" as she threw her arms around her daughter. "This cannot be! You cannot take my children!"
"It will only be for perhaps a few weeks . . . just until your case comes before a judge."
The father could not believe what he was hearing. "A few weeks? You are taking away my children for a few weeks?"
"We call them 'unaccompanied alien children.' They will be sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to identify the nearest relative here or friend of the family."
"But we know no one!"
"Then we will try to find a host family–a foster family."
They were lucky, I suppose. Instead of imprisoning the parents, the entire family was put aboard the next sailing vessel headed toward their former home in England. The border guard reported to Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoag Indians. Massasoit smiled. "Well done, Squanto. Our people have lived here for 10,000 years. Perhaps we should build a wall to keep out the murderers and rapists from these dunghole countries in Europe."
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. Just make sure you have the proper papers.
In real life, Freida Marie Crump is Ken Bradbury, retired teacher, author, musician and playwright who hangs out in Arenzville.