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By Ken Sutter on September 9, 2017
DACA and Me:
I may seem like a white bread Yankee American white man….but am I really? No matter where you stand on the issues of immigration, we all came sometime from somewhere.
I got to remembering a few nights ago those now gone but real people that I know now live in me, my children and grandchildren.
The year was 1634. A flotilla of ships appeared in a New England harbor and on board one was an excited boy of thirteen, John Viall. The son of a rural English clergyman, John’s passage was paid by a more wealthy family. As an indentured servant he would spend the next eight years working in their custody until age 21 when he could register with the colony as a “Freedman.” He soon married and started his own family. John Viall was my first American ancestor.
In 1860 Annie Anderson traveled unaccompanied from rural Sweden landing in New York and making her way to a colony of fellow Swedes in Minnesota. She became my Great great grandmother. One might speculate about an eighteen year old girl making such a journey alone, but probably some incident “you don’t talk about.”
Alas, as the politician has said, “They don’t send us their best, they send rapists and murders.” Or as my people, they bring tumble weeds. Here’s the story.
In Nineteenth century Russia there arose a new queen, Katherine the Great, Czarina. She was a German powerhouse and among one of her initiatives was improvement of Russian farmers. She enticed German farmers to settle and many Amishmen started farms in the Ukraine.
As the years went by there arose a new Czar who was recruiting young men for his armies. The Amish found a way out so in 1874 over a thousand left the Vilhainaya region for the United States and Canada. My great grandfather settled his family near Yankton South Dakota.
These Amishmen brought their precious seed grain and therein were the hidden seeds of Russian thistles, tumbleweeds. Tumbleweeds were not native to the Americas, and though they had previously been seen in the colonies they did not take hold like they did in the vast open prairies of the West. You might say my people were among those that brought tumleweeds to the American West.
The bible has a Jesus parable about weeds and tares, and of enemies causing mischief by sowing seeds of weeds. The farmers found this new weed in their fields and were sure that these Amishmen were intionally sowing mischief. Remember, Immigrants “Don’t send their best.”
Other, now my great grandparents were teenagers in a new world, Christian Albrecht and Annie Sutter, part of that Amish migration, who married and began their family, My Grandfather was their third child, the first boy, born in 1887. Sometime after the fourth child, Jack, Annie died.
Christian married again, Annie’s niece, whose name was also Annie Sutter. They went on to have six more kids. As a sidenote, my granfather reappears in 1900 as Albright, and later adopted Sutter. To his dying day he carried grudges against his family that he wouldn’t talk about. Tumbleweeds, thistles, the troublesome weeds that are easily rooted out if you have the will and catch them before they get too big.
Around the turn of the century my great grandfather Knute Nelson was brought as a teenager from Norway. His family settled in Minnesota and when he married a descendant of Anna Anderson, of Sweden they produced my grand father LeRoy Nelson.
We can follow the Viall family through the Revolutionary war, the civil war and finally the marriage of young Katie Viall, my grandmother to LeRoy Nelson. And they made mom.
I am a mixture. One grandma I haven’t spoken of traces to Swiss Amish stock, The Sutters and Albrechts to the Ukraine. The Andersons and Nelsons to Sweden and Norway, the Vialls from England and most certainly to France.
We’re here. The people I’ve talked of all came as minors, brought by their parents. Who know what these kids wanted. It was not their choice.
And there’s one more, I’m married to an immigrant. My wife Adeny was brought here from Aregentina by her parents at age 17. She has told me she really didn’t want to come here and she tells me stories about going to a new school, feeling out of it, not understanding the public speaker in the hallways making announcements. And though she returned to Argentina for one more year she came back to the US for college and a masters. And finally, in 1982, for me. She went on to become college professor, finish her PhD and a career that included College Dean and Academic Vice President.
We all come from somewhere. I’ve shared with you some of the kids that make up ancestors. Kids who at this moment in history would be subject to the very strict rules for DACA, Deferred Action on Child Arrivals.
In DACA Ameria has a sound and reasonable, even compassionate program to take care of kids. And they are proving to be the Best of the Best. We are a big country, let us have a big heart and do the right thing for 800,000 kids who have had no say in where they were taken, settled. Yet they are building a life. They are contributing paying taxes yet they cannot collect benefits. They are the best. We need them.