My grandfather was born in a small village in the west of Ireland in 1839. He was the third of four children. In 1845 and succeeding years, the Irish potato crop failed and a great famine ensued. A million people died and a million people immigrated.
My grandfather’s family was impoverished but was able to send the two older children to America In 1849 my grandfather and his 6-year-old sister were sent by ship to America to live with their older siblings. Communication was unreliable and the older siblings never received notice of their coming. The two young children were not met in New York when their ship arrived. Two unaccompanied minors seeking to enter the United States.
Fortunately, it was a different time. A family from Connecticut who they didn’t know vouched for them, took them into their home and raised them until they were young adults.
Later, my grandfather moved to Minnesota and married my grandmother. My mother was his fourth and last child. He lived just long enough to hold me as a newborn.
I write this as thousands of unaccompanied children are streaming across our southern border, and the intense cry is “don’t admit them, send them back.”
Fortunately, that was not the national attitude in 1849. I owe my very existence to the generosity of a welcoming country and the kindness of a family from Connecticut.
Thomas E. Holloran is a senior distinguished fellow at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, and former president of Medtronic and chairman and CEO of Dain-Rauscher, now RBC Wealth Management.