Blog: Slaves and Indians: Senators share history in immigration debate

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During hours of testimony and discussion about a bill that would allow illegal immigrants living in Maryland qualify for in-state tuition to state colleges and universities on Wednesday, two senators gave brief lessons in history and genealogy.

Sen. Joanne Benson, a Prince George’s County Democrat and retired educator, took on the role of a teacher once again. After a panel of community college administrators and clergy had finished testifying, she quizzed them on the settlement of Jamestown, Va. in 1607, and Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas in 1492.

When Columbus sailed in the 15th century, when the English settlers founded the first colony in what’s now the U.S. a little more than 100 years later, and when the settlers began importing African slaves to Jamestown, Benson pointed out that there were already American Indians living there.

“I wonder if native Americans referred to them as illegal aliens,” Benson said. “I close my case.”

Frederick Sen. Ronald Young, a Democrat, responded.

“I happen to be one-eighth Cherokee, and I don’t remember inviting any of you over here,” he said. “But you’re welcome.”

—Megan Poinski