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An International Relations Conversation

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In response to Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Global Cleveland’s initiative, “An International Relations Conversation” at the Cleveland Public Auditorium, we attended this important event last Wednesday, March 1st , together with my colleagues, Mr. Richard Drucker and Mr. Michael Patterson.

The program started with an introduction by Ms. Valerie J. McCall, Chief of Government and International Relations Affairs for Mayor Jackson, who stated that “internationalism is the fabric of our community and that this meeting was called in order to make those participating in this event feel that they could voice their concerns and talk to each other about our international community here in Cleveland”.  Further, Ms. McCall introduced the key speakers on the stage, starting with Mayor Jackson, Council President, Mr. Kevin Kelley, Mr. Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland and one of the organizers of this event, and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams.

Mayor Jackson was the first speaker, who went on to say that, “despite of the fact that the meeting meant a lot for me personally, he hoped that it would mean even more to the various ethnic communities in Cleveland, and I want to establish a climate wherein people from all walks of life could voice their concerns, and express their fears and anxieties during these difficult times and at all times.”    

City Council President, Mr. Kevin Kelley talked about the City of Cleveland’s new “Language Access Plan” ,  “which ensures that those whose English proficiency is not enough for them to communicate well, can still have effective and meaningful access to the City’s services”.

President of Global Cleveland, Mr. Joe Cimperman was thrilled and happy to mention that over 130 people responded to their call and attended this important event.  Further, he acknowledged “due to the heated rhetoric on the national level, many foreign-born people may not feel comfortable living in the United States right now, but he elaborated by stating that he wanted everyone to know that in the City of Cleveland, all are welcomed and should feel at home, and that we are truly an “international city.”  Mr. Cimperman went on to talk about international/F-1 visa students in Cleveland who come from over 90 different countries and bring with them some unique global perspectives from their native lands. Mr. Cimperman also stated that there are some important facts that immigrants are a powerful  economic asset to Cleveland in particular and in our country in general.  Mr. Cimperman concluded his remarks by saying that, “no matter what the federal government did in terms of building a wall across the U.S./Mexican border, or creating a pathway to citizenship, “home is here” for all Immigrants.”

During the questions and answers session, our good friend, Mr. Pierre Bejjani, President of CAMEO read  a statement conveying the concerns of the American-Middle Eastern/Arab Community regarding the issue of , “we are a multi-ethnic community, we have fears about being secure and safe enough under the current development, our community will be singled out and stereotyped, and we need reassurance  from the Mayor, Police Department and elected officials that we are going to be safe”.

Cleveland Police Chief, Calvin Williams, who also was on the stage with the Mayor spoke up and assured Mr. Bejjani that his officers have never questioned a person’s immigration status and will not do so in the future.

Other international community leaders like Mr. Joseph Meissner, Ms. Mari Galindo-Da Silva, Dr. Wael Khouri, Ms. Julia Shearson, and Dr. Mansour Ahmed, all spoke and conveyed their concerns and that of their respective communities.  Dr. Ahmed extended to Mayor Jackson and invitation to visit the Islamic Center of Cleveland on West 130th.

I asked mayor Jackson about the “International Education Task Force” that I was a part of, which was in place and active several years ago, and what can be done now to revisit this issue and deliver more services for our international student/foreign-born population; knowing that there are now in the U.S. over 1 million international students bringing an economic revenue of $44 billion every year, and creating 400,000 jobs for our American work force.  I cited these most recent and updated statistics from NAFSA/Association of International Educators.  Both Mayor Jackson and Mr. Cimperman responded very positively to my question and comments and stated that they will do their very best to revitalize and look into this important issue.

Mr. Cimperman concluded his remarks by assuring that, “this had been the first of what he hoped would be many continued discussions and confirmed to us that we will have more to come.”

Mayor Jackson, a political veteran himself, said that, “if one relies on government to see what needs to be done and do it, then one is going to fail.  Therefore, it is imperative that the people hold government  in check in order to make sure that it does whatis vital and necessary.  He finally suggested that our people must work together to make Cleveland a more welcoming place and in doing so, Global Cleveland will be our strong arm.”

 

BY:  George Koussa

Public Relations Administrator

Arabic Translator

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