(WATCH) A different kind of Texas immigration story

Finally today, we’re off to West Texas where Scott Thuman found an inspiring and unexpected story about immigration.

In the heart of oil country, where cattle and cowboy hats still are the staple, that Texas twang, is interrupted by an altogether different sound.

In this tiny town, population under 8000, nearly half the people are Mennonites, speaking in ‘Low German’ and standing out from the typical Texas crowd. Just how they became a farming and business force in the Lone-Star State, is a story itself.

For centuries, Christian Mennonites faced persecution, forcing them from country to country. In the 1970’s, 500 Mennonite families, who fled Europe, landing in Mexico, eventually aimed for their own slice of independence in America and started buying property, since back then, owning land equaled a pathway to citizenship. But due to a series of unscrupulous land deals and technicalities over water rights, all were slated for deportation. Until a couple members of Congress got involved, the media swarmed and took this picture: an 8 year old girl next to her friend, praying for the chance to stay.

Scott: This is it right here?

Tina Siemens: This is it. And that’s taken by the Albuquerque newspaper.

Tina Siemens was in that photo.

Scott: This picture of the two of you praying goes, if it were a word back then, it goes viral.

Siemens: It does. It does. And look at the title of it. Promised land that didn’t deliver.

Though eventually, it did. In 1981, Congress wrote and passed a bill listing every member of the community by name, granting permanent residence, and President Carter, with an affection for fellow farmers, signed it.

Today, there’s still a separation, that’s not hard to hear. While Mennonite families here own a large portion of building and farming businesses here, many stay to themselves, in their own schools, stores, restaurants & churches.

Scott: What do you think of the traditional Texans?

Susy: Oh, I love Texas. This is my home. I’ve been here for so long. I definitely wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

John Belcher is the mayor of Seminole.

Belcher: There’s not very many places, I don’t think, in the country that people really have a desire that bring the kind of work ethic and the kind of desire to achieve the American Dream as they do here. They just want to get here to this country, which I agree with them, it’s fantastic, and work. And then, 5, 10 years down the road, they have a beautiful house, they have a barn, they have some land.

Tina is now a Progressive Mennonite, less traditional, but has spent her days spreading their story. and just recently, delivering her book ‘Seminole: Some People Never Give Up’ to the man who made sure they didn’t: President Carter.

Scott: What is the message out of all of this?

Tina: I would like for America to repeat the story that happened here over and over again. Make a pathway to get legal immigration, but make it to where… If it’s just handed to them, the meaning isn’t there. We worked for our status here, and I think that is why it’s so valuable. You will not find a more grateful American than me and my family because we just cherish the opportunity.

For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman, Seminole, Texas.

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