As the war of words regarding immigration continues to escalate, I am reminded of my family history, which is a story similar to many families in this country, crossing racial, ethnic and historical boundaries. Were it not for this country’s welcoming attitude, neither I nor my husband would be here today.
In the mid-19th century, my great-great-grandfather, Jules Pinaire, in France, charged with providing food for his family, killed a deer in the royal forest in an act of desperation. He knew if he were found guilty, he would face death by the guillotine. For that reason, he managed to come to Harrison County in southern Indiana, where he began a new life with other French immigrants.
In the early part of the 20th century, my husband’s grandfather, Herman Dege, fled Germany with his wife and 3-year-old daughter to avoid being drafted into the Kaiser’s army shortly before World War I. They settled in Quincy, Ill., where other Germans had found a home. In his case, his life potentially was at stake if he had chosen to remain in Germany.
Each of us needs to remember our personal and our country’s proud history of reaching out to those who are fleeing their countries out of terror and desperation.