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Columbus Day

On Columbus Day, put aside anti-immigrant rhetoric and reflect on immigrants’ contributions to America.

Thousands and thousands of years ago, there were no people at all in the Americas. Then, during the last great Ice Age, nomads crossed over a land bridge from Asia to what is now Alaka. These early hunters wandered here more or less by accident, searching for food.

American Indians, also called Native Americans, are distant relatives of the ancient hunters who arrived in North America so very long ago. They were the first immigrants to arrive in what was truly a new world.

Columbus’ voyage in 1492 occured at a time where nation states like Spain, Portugal were competing for navigation routes, trade routes, and most importantly colonies, hence establishing the immigration of soldiers, sailors, clergy, merchants, skilled tradesmen, unskilled workers, and their families to these new lands.

Christopher Columbus is often portrayed as the first European to sail to the Americas. His discovery changed the course of immigration to America forever. America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants are people who come to a new land to make their home. All Americans are related to immigrants or are immigrants themselves.

We spend billions on border militarization which hasn’t stopped undocumented migration. In fact, one of the only notable outcomes of beefing up the border has been more death, danger and lives lost in the desert.

Columbus was himself an immigrant twice over—resettling both in Spain and in the western hemisphere. America is a nation founded and built by immigrants. Many families still tell stories about at least one ancestor who arrived on U.S. shores with little more than what they could carry in pursuit, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “of happiness. ”

Even the men and women on the Mayflower were immigrants. We should celebrate the coming together of the cultures of the Americas. Cultural domination and separation continues with border militarization as a tenet of our foreign policy.

According to President Barack Obama, it is Columbus’ “intrepid character and spirit of possibility that has come to define America, and is the reason countless families still journey to our shores.” To whom is Obama referring if not the immigrants who come to the United States for a chance to support their families?

On this Columbus Day, let’s consider the discrepancy between how newcomers are celebrated in our history but ostracized in our society — and what we can learn from a modern analysis of Columbus’ story.

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