America’s Civic Square on Immigration

Hear from community leaders on the front lines of immigration as they discuss ways to ensure Cleveland’s legacy is one of inclusion during America’s Civic Square panel, “Immigration in America,” part of the new national discussion series kicking off on Monday in the Eastman Reading Garden at Cleveland Public Library’s Main Library.

Taking place against the backdrop of next week’s Republican National Convention, America’s Civic Square will debut on Monday, July 18 with a conversation about “Who Is Being Left Out of Cleveland’s Renaissance?” Following, on July 19, panelists will explore “What Women Really Want From Their Candidates” and on July 20 community experts will discuss “Immigration in America.”

Speakers at Wednesday’s immigration panel will include Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland; Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA Ohio; Danielle Drake, Community Relations Manager at US Together; and Eileen Wilson, Director of Refugee Ministries at Building Hope in the City.

“I’m looking forward to Wednesday’s panel discussion because America is the land of immigrants,” says Danielle Drake of refugee and immigration advocacy group US Together. “This country was built on the hard work, blood, sweat and tears of many immigrants and refugees and I want to see it stay that way.”

According to a 2012 US Together economic impact study on refugees, in Cleveland the economic return on investment was $10 for every dollar, “That’s amazing and shows we should continue to welcome refugees and immigrants to our city and country,” Drake says.

“Whether Republican or Democrat, there is an incredible opportunity for collaboration to make immigration policy work better,” says Joe Cimperman of economic development organization Global Cleveland. According to Global Cleveland, 1,000 refugees come to Cleveland annually, 2,500 immigrants are sworn in as US citizens each year, and 5,000 international students come to Cleveland to further their academic pursuits.

“We are the United States of America,” Cimperman says. “I hope we will focus on the first word in that name.”

Eileen Wilson of faith-based community organization Building Hope in the City looks forward to speaking about common immigrant roots Americans share as a nation.

“Remembering our roots will help allay the fear that the media is instilling regarding our newest immigrants,” Wilson says. “I hope that the audience will walk away with the understanding that though our newest neighbors may look different, we share a common desire for peace.”

Right now is the time to go beyond political sound bytes and engage in a more substantive talk about immigration, especially with Cleveland being in the national spotlight, says Veronica Dahlberg of grassroots Latino advocacy group HOLA Ohio.

“Immigration is a global issue and our country has an opportunity to set the tone and the standard on how to address it based on our values,” Dahlberg says. “I know we can do better than what we are doing now – ripping families apart, incarcerating children and keeping millions of people living in fear in the shadows.”

Wednesday’s discussion, “Immigration in America” will be followed the next day by “Champions Debate the Headlines” featuring regional debate champions who will discuss news items making headlines. All events will take place at 12 pm (with the exception of Thursday’s event at 1pm) in the Eastman Reading Garden at Main Library.