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

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

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.