Are Donald Trump & Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson Strange Bedfellows on Immigration? (Part II)

Continued

Part II

We don\’t hear about translating city hall website and materials to OPEN up the city hall for all people — as part of a language equity policy. We don\’t hear about doing outreach to existing immigrant communities, with law enforcement, libraries, and others, to build community, groom civic leaders, educate on naturalization and visas for victims of crime and human trafficking.

We don\’t hear Jackson talk about political asylum, or for Cleveland to provide sanctuary to those who find their way to our city as tourists or students, but who cannot return home for fear of persecution based on political opinion, religion, ethnic group, or sexual orientation.

Instead, we hear about some inchoate plans to create an Orwellian “Dream Neighborhood” to segregate new refugees in rehabbed homes. The plan appears to be driven by private interests/developers, not city hall. Also, refugee resettlement itself is managed by nonprofit resettlement agencies, like Catholic Charities, not city hall. So, it\’s hard to understand why the city is talking like it’s THEIR program.

It’s still not clear what the program is, despite being talked about for years.

In any event, in light of Jackson’s longstanding rebuff of immigration-based economic development and welcoming strategies, like those embraced in, Philly, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cincinnati, Dayton, St. Louis, Columbus, Buffalo, Toledo, and so many other cities—- with his \”Cleveland Takes Care of Its Own\” mantra it is hard not to be skeptical of the mayor and his team (which extends to non-profits that helps lead, like Global Cleveland) when they talk about welcoming refugees. Those who have dipped into the issue know that Frank does not believe in actively welcoming and attracting immigrants to help rebuild the city\’s population and economy.

Could it be that Global Cleveland or its new pet project the Dream Neighborhood, might merely be a public relations move to distract the community and mask the Mayor’s nativism — making Cleveland APPEAR a bit, well, immigrant-friendly?

Jackson and his team know that refugee flow is dictated by the federal government. A small number of refugees enter the U.S. per year, 65,000 to 85,000. A trickle will make it to Cleveland. Small enough not to change Frank\’s agenda. Jackson’s allies in local politics, business and philanthropy, must know, certainly, that Cleveland is an outlier in the rust belt in the immigration game. They don\’t want to look too bad, so voila, the Dream Neighborhood.

In any event, refugee resettlement, as important as it is, and the Dream Neighborhood, whatever it is, are not a substitute for a comprehensive immigration integration strategy. Joe Cimperman, the longtime downtown Cleveland City Councilman and new head of Global Cleveland, knows this. During his 18 years on City Council, and despite being a child of an immigrant, Cimperman has largely avoided immigration issues, and certainly has ignored the opportunity to revitalize the city by welcoming and integrating a new wave of immigrants. In 2013, Cimperman and his City Council colleagues joined Jackson’s administration in boycotting Welcoming America, an umbrella organization for nearly 100 communities nationwide, when it came to the city seeking a partnership with the City and Cuyahoga County on crafting local immigrant integration strategies. Even today, he is heard defending Jackson’s response to those questioning the City’s commitment to its immigrant community and their unique challenges.

Joe Roman, the President of the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP), the city’s chamber of commerce, equally avoids the issue like the plague, not wanting to fall out of Jackson’s favor. Roman declined a request to do a Cleveland event around immigration reform a few years ago with the Partnership for a New American Economy (a coalition of CEOs and mayors around the country, convened by Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch). While other city chambers of commerce around the country lobby aggressively for creative immigration reform to boost their local economies, GCP sits quietly on the sidelines.

Years ago, Columbus surpassed Cleveland as Ohio’s immigrant and global city. The foreign-born population in Columbus nears the national average of 13%. A decade ago, a woman asked then-Mayor Michael Coleman to build a fence around her neighborhood to keep out the growing number of immigrants from Africa and Latin America who were making Columbus their new home. A couple of years ago Coleman recounted the exchange to the Columbus Dispatch: “I told her, ‘Ma’am, not only am I not going to build a fence, but I’m going to put up a welcome sign and do everything I can to attract more immigrants here.’ ” Coleman soon announced a New Americans Initiative to help immigrant newcomers transition to their new city and become successful.

Progressive political, business and university leadership have paved the way for immigrant talent and entrepreneurship flows into Columbus. Have you ever wondered why there are 40,000 African immigrants in Columbus, and only a handful in Cleveland? The answer: enlightened leadership and local policy. Clearly, when Mayor Jackson pushed out the Somali and Ethiopian taxi companies and drivers in his first mayoral term, many of them Muslim who were ticketed for praying at Hopkins Airport, harassed, and ultimately denied access to contracts at the airport, the word spread around the country, and around the world, that Cleveland does not welcome immigrants. Due to the harassment and loss of business, many of this new wave of African immigrants left Cleveland for greener pastures in other cities around the country.

Ironically, with politics at City Hall driven by African American leadership, immigrants of color do not often feel welcome.

Real change is not drip, drip. Real change is not deceptive and manipulative. Real change does not divide. It is inclusive of EVERYONE. The problem is that Cleveland leaders do not really want change that meaningfully includes immigrants.

Numerous journalists have told me that Jackson declines media requests to talk about his immigration strategy. There are reason for this. One, he has no immigration strategy. Two, he doesn\’t want anyone to know he doesn’t have one. And three, he doesn\’t want one — he believes that immigrants will hurt Cleveland by competing for jobs, changing the race-political game, and changing the definition of diversity from a black/white paradigm.

Since Frank does not grant media requests to discuss this issue, it is up to citizens to ask Jackson, publicly, when the cameras are rolling, why he feels this way. While Trump at least speaks his mind on immigration, Jackson stays largely mum. Other than saying that he seeks to “take care of our own,” he offers no insight as to “who” are “our own.” Does this include the thousands of undocumented immigrants living now in Cleveland? Further, he declines to specifically address why he feels that the economists’ research on immigrant contributions is wrong, and why so many other cities in the rust belt are misguided to work hard to integrate and attract immigrants.

When Jackson is asked publicly about immigration, which is rare, but usually initiated by Attorney Joseph Meissner, a Green Beret and co-founder of the Harvard Law School Civil Rights Law Journal, Jackson is almost indecipherable. Here is a recent example of Jackson’s incomprehensible jabberwocky in answering a citizen question on immigration. When asked about his immigration programs, Jackson responded:

\”Programs is programs…We don\’t believe in programs…sometimes you are worse off after programs.\”

Huh? Isn’t the “Dream Neighborhood” his program? What about the hundreds of programs currently under his management at city hall?

For a peek at a real immigrant integration and attraction strategy, check out Chicago’s Plan for New Americans, outlining Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s vision of creating the most immigrant-friendly city in the world.

For a deeper dive, you may be also be interested in checking out “Cleveland Needs Immigrants: Why and How to Welcome More Foreign Born Residents” which was the original plan for Global Cleveland, until the Cleveland Foundation and the Jewish Federation, in order to appease Jackson’s discomfort with immigrants, said \”no way Jose\” and pulled the plug on the immigration strategies. After focusing on welcoming “boomerangers,” dumping nearly $5 million (some of it funded by Governor Kasich), wasting 6 years and running through 4 executive directors, Global Cleveland has accomplished precious little.

Perhaps that was the intent all along?

In light of such entrenched parochialism and insularity, one has to ask the questions: Why even bother launching organizations like Global Cleveland, or engage in prolonged civic dialogue about empty projects like the “Dream Neighborhood” or “La Villa Hispana”?

Because it creates the appearance that the necessary and important work of immigrant inclusion is actually being done.

The modest Polish immigrant family with the last name Ratowczer (later changed to Ratner) that immigrated to Cleveland in the 1920s and founded Forest City Enterprises, now a multi-billion dollar national real estate development firm, would surely be ashamed of how little their city embraces the immigrant spirit in the 21st century.

On July 18, 2016, Trump will be in Cleveland for the GOP Convention. He will find many friends here who understand that immigration is a powerful wedge issue that can be played for political advantage, much to the detriment of the American people.

Build a wall? Well, in many ways, Cleveland’s leaders have already built a wall. To make Cleveland great again, it’s time for the people to tear it down.

Richard Herman is an evangelist for welcoming immigrants and the economic contributions they make to American cities. As a lawyer, activist, author and consultant to cities and counties, he has dedicated his life to advocating for immigrants and helping change the conversation on immigration. He is the co-author of the book, Immigrant, Inc. —Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (John Wiley & Sons, 2009) and the founder of the Herman Legal Group — The Law Firm for ImmigrantsTM. www.HermanImmigrationLawyer.com Founded in 1995 and with staff that speaks over 12 languages, the law firm provides immigration counsel to immigrants from around the world from their offices in Columbus, Cleveland and Detroit. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report awarded The Herman Legal Group the designation of “Best Law Firm” in the field of immigration law. Richard has been named to The Best Lawyers in America©, 2015 and 2016, and listed in Super Lawyers© for ten consecutive years. Richard was a founding board member of Global Cleveland and later resigned.

Richard Herman is an evangelist for welcoming immigrants and the economic contributions they make to American cities. As a lawyer, activist, author and consultant to cities and counties, he has dedicated his life to advocating for immigrants and helping change the conversation on immigration. He is the co-author of the book, Immigrant, Inc. —Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (John Wiley & Sons, 2009) and the founder of the Herman Legal Group — The Law Firm for ImmigrantsTM. Founded in 1995 and with staff that speaks over 12 languages, the law firm provides immigration counsel to immigrants from around the world from their offices in Columbus, Cleveland and Detroit. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report awarded The Herman Legal Group the designation of “Best Law Firm” in the field of immigration law. Richard has been named to The Best Lawyers in America©, 2015 and 2016, and listed in Super Lawyers© for ten consecutive years. Richard was a founding board member of Global Cleveland and later resigned.

Author Bio: Richard Herman is an evangelist for welcoming immigrants and the economic contributions they make to American cities. As a lawyer, activist, author and consultant to cities and counties, he has dedicated his life to advocating for immigrants and helping change the conversation on immigration. He is the co-author of the book, Immigrant, Inc. —Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (John Wiley & Sons, 2009) and the founder of the Herman Legal Group — The Law Firm for ImmigrantsTM. www.HermanImmigrationLawyer.com Founded in 1995 and with staff that speaks over 12 languages, the law firm provides immigration counsel to immigrants from around the world from their offices in Columbus, Cleveland and Detroit. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report awarded The Herman Legal Group the designation of “Best Law Firm” in the field of immigration law. Richard has been named to The Best Lawyers in America©, 2015 and 2016, and listed in Super Lawyers© for ten consecutive years. Richard was a founding board member of Global Cleveland and later resigned.

Category: Politics
Keywords: Donald Trump, RNC, Cleveland, Frank Jackson, City Hall, Immigrants, Immigration, Mexicans, Muslims

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