Immigrant Attraction, Welcome to Cleveland!
By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent
Embracing a more proactive immigrant friendly vision for Cleveland, Global Cleveland partnered with MetroHealth Medical Center and Welcoming America to lay groundwork to transform the city. Nearly 250 guests attended the movie and post discussion at MetroHealth Medical Center on July 16, 2013.
“Global Cleveland wants to welcome everyone regardless of skill level,” said Joy Roller, president of the organization, indicating a dramatic shift in the organization’s previous approach to immigration, which focused primarily on high skill talent attraction.
“Everything comes with time and everything comes with suffering,” said Albert B. Rather, co-chairman emeritus of Forest City Enterprises, Inc. and visionary of Global Cleveland . “We have no future as a city if all we are is black and white; that is a demographic fact,” he said, referring to the dramatic loss of population in the city and record decrease in immigrant attraction.
David Lubell, Mansfied Frazier, Richard Romero, Abby Abiose, y Tim Mrosko
Albert B. Rather and Dr. Akram Boutros
Dr. Akram Boutros, the new president of MetroHealth Systems, welcomed the audience and shared his own immigrant experience. Moving from Egypt 39 years ago and unable to speak English, Boutros said he had to start over, but: “America is still the greatest place to reap rewards of our hard work.” He said MetroHealth’s commitment to diversity and inclusion goes beyond slogans and is reflected not just in the staff but also the community it serves. “The issues presented in this movie are near to my heart,” he said.
Welcome to Shelbyville was shown—a movie documenting the unease of a small Tennessee town as Somali refugees move into the community to work at the Tyson plants. The movie captures the tensions, lack of cultural awareness and confusion caused by the entry of a new minority. The film highlights the fear of change and as locals feel their values are being forcibly changed to embrace people of a different religion and culture.
“We often dismiss people with fear,” said David Lubell, executive director of Welcoming America, which is a critical mistake in the effort to transform the mindset of a community. Welcoming America is a national nonprofit organization working to improve immigrant integration by direct engagement through individual and group efforts to create local initiatives that facilitate cultural understanding and ease transitions.
Lubell said all communities are different; some have less distance to do and working with Global Cleveland and other partners Welcoming America will determine where the city stands to best address its needs. Lubell said there is intense competition brewing amongst cities to become the most immigrant friendly city in the United States and attract global talent.
Mansfield Frazier, activist and journalist, said diversity is something that needs to be worked on in the United States—“A lot of African-Americans feel no on helps me; this is a legitimate fear.” Frazier said the key to embracing diversity is making sure no one is left out and promoting the reality that immigrants create more opportunities than they take away.
Richard Romero, Ohio Commission on Hispanic & Latino Affairs, said the Latino community is coming together for reform stronger than ever before. He said certain members of the Puerto Rican community didn’t understand why he would advocate on behalf of the Mexicans—“I told them: ‘what they do to them, they will do to us.” The message sunk in when in 2010 Puerto Ricans with birth certificates issued prior to July1, 2010 could no longer use them as primary proof of citizenship for a U.S. passport. Romero encouraged the audience to utilize the Commission’s resources, advance partnerships and advocate against anti-immigrant legislature frequently presented at the state level.
Cleveland is expected to resettle nearly 600 individual refugees this year between three agencies: International Services Center, Catholic Charities, and US Together, said Tom Mrosko, director of Cleveland Catholic Migration & Refugee Services. He said the agencies make sure a lot of prep work is done to prepare the host community with refugees.
Cultural competency is addressed through schools; hospitals are primed for language needs. “I assure you, we do not sit around in a room plotting ways to convert the refugees we resettle,” he said, referencing a scene in the movie where a group of Presbyterian church members are developing a program to embrace the Somali refugees in hopes of converting them.
The scene was most poignant for Abby Aboise, a Nigerian immigrant who was disturbed by the perceptions held by the Shelbyville residents of Somalis. From demeaning their cultural attire to the notion they were aggressive because they attempted to negotiate prices. “I still haggle, because there your prices are so inflated you are supposed to haggle,” she said. Abosie said people come to the United States because it gives them the opportunities they cannot obtain in their homeland.