Westward Ho but no Mecca

Dashed hopes

IMG1We dropped off our companions at the end of a whirlwind trip to Seattle. Just so they feel safe, I’m not showing their faces. Anderson Cooper wanted to interview them but they declined as they don’t want their image made public. I don’t blame them.

They are a great family having a rough time they don’t deserve. After getting death threats and beat up by the Taliban because he helped the US Army for 11 years, the father brought his family to the United States to be safe. The authorities here are trying to send him back to be killed. Here’s the unbelievable LA Times story about the family we spent the last two days with…

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-afghan-family-detained-20170306-story.html

They have nothing. They are given barely enough to live on while they go to school to learn English and look for a job. These families had never seen frost before, let alone the long and snowy winter they slid into upon arriving in the Tri-Cities. Our first task was rounding up some warm clothing, gloves and boots for them along with a few other necessary items. Many people in the area were generous with their help and donations.

Since last fall we have gotten quite close to these folks. I even know their names. This is a tremendous feat since I usually can’t even remember my own kids’ names. Far different than most of my work, it’s been a rewarding assignment.

The father of one family is in his thirties and has never driven a car. I could tell that someday he would like to own one. He asked how much cars cost after riding in our 2000 vintage Honda van. “Do they cost like…three million dollars?” he asked. I told him if he could find somebody to buy our van for that amount, I’d give them a 33% discount but I had to have it in cash.

I hope he is successful in this car selling venture. If he is, I’ll give every one of my friends a hundred dollar bill. (That means it’ll cost me three or four hundred dollars. It’s lucky I don’t have more friends.)

They are a sweet and humble people. They have seen immediate family members gunned down by rebels right in front of them. They are missing fathers, mothers, husbands, brothers and sisters. We have seen great sadness in their faces when they speak of departed loved ones.

What an experience it has been so far! We sing a song in church called “Count Your Blessings”. The song has taken on new meaning.

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We got word last week the support group we work with that helps these refugees needed someone to haul a family that was from Afghanistan to Seattle for a couple of days. They needed to meet with an attorney named Talia and have a court hearing so they could stay in America. That’s all we were told.

We volunteered since we had already been approved by the support group to drive refugees around in my high-priced roadster from Japan. I really had other stuff to do and didn’t much feel like driving to Seattle. However, I knew somebody needed to help them. I told Michele to offer our services if no one else volunteered. Now I’m glad they didn’t and we did.

I gotta say here that I voted for Trump. I like some of the stuff he is doing. I have a few concerns about some of the other things he is up to but that discussion is for another day. Anyway, suffice it to say since the Donald has taken over, being a new-comer in this land of amber waves of grain is becoming more difficult.

This particular family is Muslim and being a newcomer to this fresh set of circumstances, I was a little wary as we traveled to pick them up at their apartment. I didn’t want to end up with my throat slit before we got home from Seattle.

My concerns were unwarranted. Vastly. Like many Americans, I’ve had great concerns for years about radical Muslims and their agenda. We didn’t know this family’s story until we started driving down the road with them. And then, WOW!

In a nutshell, here’s what we learned:

  • The couple are in their 30s and they have three little boys.
  • The father worked for the the US Army for 11 years as a translator and information source.
  • His life is at risk from ISIS the Taliban. He and his family are dead if returned to Afghanistan.
  • He had several friends in his same situation move to the US on recommendation from the Army. No problem. They and their families are here, settled and happy.
  • A month ago, this family flew in to LAX. The cops at the airport handcuffed and shackled him, stamped ON PAROLE on his passport and threw him in jail for three days.
  • No law enforcement person could give a reason why. When this guy asked them why he was being jailed, they all said “I don’t know, that’s not my job.” They told him they were going to send his wife and kids to a detention camp in Texas. A judge ended up taking the wife and kids to a law office where they lived and slept until the father was released. This is a guy who risked his own life and had helped US forces for the last 11 years.
  • It appears that with Trump’s hard line on immigration and the way most  government minions toe the line, anyone from the Middle East is toast, whether they be friend or foe.

So a nice immigration attorney named Talia from LA flew up yesterday to help this family. While we helped babysit the kids, Talia spent several hours with him to review everything she needed to know. Later that afternoon, they got word the feds were asking for a continuance on the court date that was scheduled for the next day.

I suspect employing continuances is a legal ploy to extend the agony of the victim, justify their job and drum up a little more pocket change for the lawyers and judges.

We spent the night with the family, hoping the judge wouldn’t accept the request but like all things (namely common sense) seem to turn out in the legal world, it was not to be. We walked out in the Seattle rain, got in my three million dollar Honda van (No, it hasn’t sold yet) and drove home.

The attorney headed for the airport to fly back to LA. I guess we’ll be doing the same exercise next week including her flying back up. Hopefully, this will be the last legal hearing in the matter. I’m not sure how many more trips to Seattle our worn-out van has in her.

This is a sweet family. The boys, a nine month old, a six year old and a seven year old, were friendly, content and cute. Throughout the entire sojourn, they were perfectly behaved. Heck, my wife and I wouldn’t mind adopting them. We might have to if their mom and dad get sent back to the war zone.

The only time I saw them even look a little cross was when we took them to Red Robin and Michele tried to get them to order hot dogs for the kids. I guess she wasn’t aware of the Muslim’s stance on eating pork. They ended up eating veggie burgers.

I’ve got to admit that I have seen the other side of the refugee crisis in the last few months. It’s easy to have a hard-line attitude of indifference concerning everyone outside and even inside our borders. But most of these people are innocent and simply trying to survive in this world. Again, I count my blessings. There but for the grace of God go I (and you).

http://abcnews.go.com/US/afghan-family-visas-held-california-attorneys/story?id=45936736

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