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U.S. Constitution Day Forum

On Sunday, September 17th, the United States will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the signing of its Constitution so on Friday, September 15th, we attended the U.S. Constitution Day forum at the City Club of Cleveland wherein the speaker, and a most appropriate one, was Ms. Kavita Pawria-Sanchez who is the assistant commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA).

As her biography in the City Club brochure stated, "she also served for five years as the Executive Director of the Office of Refugee and Immigrant Affairs at NYC's social service agency where she spearheaded policies and programmatic strategies to meet civil rights mandates for one million immigrant New Yorkers."

Upon arrival at this event, we encountered our good friend Ms. Chia-Min Chen, Asian liaison for the Community Relations Board at Cleveland City Hall, who told us that a naturalization ceremony for 44 new U.S. citizens had just taken place at the City Club. Among those sworn in was a young man named Edward who immigrated to the United States from South Korea who we had seen several times at the Sterling Center.

Most appropriately, this program was sponsored by "Global Cleveland" and the "Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland" and Ms. Pam Fine represented the latter organization by displaying its banner in the lobby and distributing economic reports on the positive economic impact of refugees in the Cleveland area.

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Along these lines, as the program began, Mr. Brian Upton spoke of the services and the organization of "Refugee Services..."; Mr. Arshan Khalid talked about "Saalam Cleveland" which works with Muslims who have recently immigrated to the U.S.; and Mr. Joe Cimperman, the President of "Global Cleveland" introduced Ms. Pawria-Sanchez and set the tone for her presentation when he noted that these are very uncertain times for the foreign-born as witnessed by the travel bans and the pending repeal of DACA.

Indeed during the course of her speech, Ms. Pawria-Sanchez maintained that her city is now in a crisis mode regarding its immigrants and that she and the dedicated people she works with are doing all that they can to assist the DACA beneficiaries and others facing deportation. There is even an agency titled "Action NYC" that helps the foreign-born with such legal matters but New York City has always been aware of the value of immigrants to strengthen a community; in fact MOIA has been in existence for some 20 years now. Certainly millions of dollars have been invested by NYC in programs to aid immigrants over the years, especially to guide them through the citizenship process, and millions more have been committed since the beginning of 2017.

Ms. Pawria-Sanchez also noted that she, herself, became a naturalized citizen fairly recently and recalled her family's journey starting when they immigrated to Canada from India some 40 years ago. She, herself, came to the U.S. over 20 years ago to attend college and six years ago married a man from the Dominican Republic and they now have a daughter who is a natural-born citizen and will thus view things from a different perspective than she and her husband do.

When she was sworn in, Ms. Pawria-Sanchez recalled that the judge who performed the ceremony emphasized that with U.S. citizenship comes the responsibility to make the United States even better than it now is which is what motivates her to work harder than ever during these trying times. She went on to contend that this responsibility is what should be highlighted on Constitution Day.

Several weeks earlier, "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" received an invitation from Mr. Eduardo Rodriguez, Program Manager of the Hispanic Alliance Leadership Development Initiative, to table at a celebration of Mexican Independence Day and the start of Hispanic Heritage Month in Cleveland which took place at "Urban Community School" on Lorain Avenue so that is where we went that Friday night.

Mr. Rodriguez worked very hard; with the help of Mr. Chris Tipton, Engagement and Athletics Coordinator at "Urban Community School"; to put this event together and set our table up in a good location next to "CareSource"; "Cleveland Rape Crisis Center"'; and the "Alzheimer Association". Entertainment was provided by several Hispanic dance/musical troupes who were "Group Tepehuani Nelli"; "Group Danza Guadalupana Catolica"; and "Santa Cecilia Mariachi Group".

Among the noted speakers was Consul Fernando Gonzalez Saiffe from the Mexican Consulate in Detroit who had just appointed to new his position the previous day. During his brief remarks, he asked everyone there to observe a moment of silence for the victims of the recent earthquake in Mexico.

Other speakers were Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson who presented a proclamation to Mr. Rodriguez regarding the designation of September 15th to October 15th as Hispanic Heritage Month; Mr. Juan Molina Crespo, Executive Director of the Hispanic Alliance who noted the historical happenings surrounding Mexican Independence Day; Mr. Thomas Gill, the President of "Urban Community School" who noted that perhaps 40% of the student body is Hispanic and how dedicated that their community is to helping them realize their full potential; and Rev. Grady Stevenson, the Executive Director of the Community Relations Board of Cleveland who correctly stated that the opening of Hispanic Heritage Month usually occurs in the Rotunda of Cleveland City Hall but it was great that in 2017 it was taking place at this location which is "in the heart of the Hispanic Community."

For dinner, we enjoyed an excellent veggie burrito prepared for us by Jaime from "Moncho's" and, later on, Adrian from "La Plaza Supermarket" gave us a sample of his tasty tortillas. Before closing time, Lucero from "Las Dos Fronteras" walked over to our table and gave us a cup of "champurrado" which is a tasty hot chocolate drink.

Several people stopped by our table to chat so we gave them copies of Ms. Margaret W. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way". These people included Mr. Manny Gonzalez from North Ridgeville who expressed an interest in the history of immigration; a sweet Ursuline nun who used to teach elementary school and had thus formed the opinion that certain aspects of President Trump's persona were like those of an unruly fifth grader; and Miss Valeria Flores, a young woman who had heard Ms. Wong speak the previous weekend at "InterCLE" and admired her a lot. 

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

 

 

 

Kwasi Bediako