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
“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
“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
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.
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.
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.