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Immigration editorial draws ire of Cleveland &Ohio LULAC


“The Northeast Ohio Media Group should not be a purveyor of hate speech masquerading as informed opinion”


By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent


The Cleveland and Ohio chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have requested a meeting with newspaper officials after an editorial column was published denouncing undocumented immigrants as people who are “only here to use América” as a means to make money, “with no interest whatsoever in contributing to a better, stronger America.”

Richard Herman


“Will we be ignored?” wondered Cleveland immigration attorney Richard Herman on his Facebook page.


Herman sent a letter dated April 30th to Andrea Hogben, president of Northeast Ohio Media Group, in his role as LULAC Ohio Civil Rights Director. The letter was the second sent by LULAC officials criticizing the column, entitled: “Illegal immigrants don't want to be Americans; they want money.”


“They’re immigrants only in the sense that they have entered from another country. They stay as long as it suits them, or until they get caught,” the column read. “Citizenship is the very last thing on their minds. Money is the very first.”


In his letter, Herman disparaged the April 8 op-ed column by Cleveland Plain Dealer deputy editorial page editor Kevin O’Brien as “factually inaccurate, substantially violates fundamental journalistic standards, and is intended to fuel the fires of intolerance in Northeast Ohio and across the country.”


The opinion piece coincided with a national controversy over racially-disparaging remarks made by an NBA franchise owner, who was later fined and banned for life from professional basketball.


“I have heard from some in your organization that this Op-Ed is merely Mr. O’Brien’s opinion. That is true, albeit one founded on misinformation,” Herman wrote. “But that does not mean that you should publish it. Would you publish an Op-Ed by L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling that explained why African-Americans are inferior to others, simply because he believed in this viewpoint?”


Herman’s letter was a follow-up to a four-page letter sent by Hugo Urizar, Cleveland LULAC chapter president, requesting a meeting between LULAC representatives, Latino clergy, and Northeast Ohio Media Group officials. That letter, according to LULAC, went unanswered.


“Please know we are deeply offended by the Op-Ed and your decision to run this piece,” Urizar wrote.

The Cleveland LULAC president cited a 2012 study by the Pew Hispanic Center in his letter, which found that 93 percent of Latino immigrants wanted to become U.S. citizens. The trend was a common one among legal permanent residents and those who are not. Urizar also cited federal historical data that showed naturalizations have steadily increased decade-over-decade since 1970, reaching an all-time high of more than one million in 2008.

“This is not just an ‘opinion’—this is propaganda intended to harm and further marginalize the undocumented community, which is largely Hispanic,” wrote Urizar. “This Op-Ed and the decision to publish it cannot be dismissed as merely an expression of one person’s opinion. The Northeast Ohio Media Group should not be a purveyor of hate speech masquerading as informed opinion.”

Herman and Urizar both raised concerns that promoting such attitudes on immigration would keep Northeast Ohio from progressing economically as a region. They cited the attitudes of other Midwestern cities as “immigration-friendly” as a means of not only re-populating their communities, but as an economic development engine.

“The region is sorely in need of new energy, entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, homeowners, and multicultural skills,” wrote Urizar. “New immigrants provide this.”

O’Brien reiterated his position in a follow-up column April 22, acknowledging his original comments had received some backlash. He maintained, once again, that undocumented immigrants have no interest in obtaining citizenship.

What drives them, I wrote, is a mercenary interest. I’ll stand by that,” O’Brien opined.

A reader suggested that O’Brien should meet some of the immigrants and refugees he wrote about.

In his follow-up column, O’Brien bristled at the notion.

“It doesn’t matter whether they’re nice people or had good personal reasons for coming here. They are in the wrong, no matter their personal reasons,” he wrote.

“But I oppose theft, and theft is precisely what illegal aliens engage in when they come here unbidden. I cannot give to charity that which is not mine, nor can I countenance illegal aliens helping themselves to the wealth of this nation,” O’Brien continued. “It is true that all people are my neighbors. So am I supposed to allow one neighbor to steal and another to be stolen from?”

The Plain Dealer columnist was careful not to single out Latinos in his follow-up piece. But he clearly stated his contention that undocumented immigrants have broken the law and should be subject to penalty as a result.

He is not, however, entitled to stay in the United States unless he can satisfy the civil authorities that he is a refugee from imminent harm,” wrote O’Brien. “Failing that, he should be sent back home with a stern admonition that if he is interested in residing in the United States, he must follow the legal course.”

In his April 30 letter, Herman renewed LULAC’s request for a meeting with Northeast Ohio Media Group and Plain Dealer officials.

However, anticipating that meeting would never take place, Herman added a list of demands: that the newspaper and website publish an apology and retraction; make changes to its editorial board so Hispanic and immigrant voices are heard; and, establish a “community advisory board” that reflects the diversity of the Cleveland community and a “real understanding of the economic, cultural, and legal implications of immigration.”

On the Internet:   There’s no such thing as an ‘illegal immigrant’



Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/06/14 21:04:06 -0700.




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