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11th Annual Summit on the State of the International Community Council in Northeast Ohio

On Wednesday, May 23, an important annual global summit organized by the International Community Council-Worldwide Intercultural Networks (ICC-WIN), was celebrated at the Rotunda of Cleveland City Hall. It carried a unique theme: “Agenda 2020: Immigrants and Refugees in Northeast Ohio."

This event was sponsored by the immigration law firm of Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC, and two speakers and panelists from the firm participated: Mr. Richard Drucker, Criminal Defense/Immigration Attorney, and George Koussa, Ethnic Consultant and Arabic Translator.


Mr. Drucker focused on the most important and hottest immigration issues impacting our immigrant populations and key topics affecting the immigrants and refugees as well in Northeast Ohio and nationwide. He discussed sanctuary cities, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), TPS (Temporary Protected Status); and the Refugee crisis.

Mr. Koussa talked about his story as an immigrant from Syria who came to the U.S. in 1986, leaving his family, friends, and international work and involvement at the U.S. embassy and United Nations Peace Keeping Forces in Golan Heights, Damascus, Syria, and started pursuing his American dream by beginning his graduate work at Cleveland State University. He was advised by the International Student Advisor at CSU to consult with an immigration attorney, Ms. Margret Wong, and change his tourist visa status to that of a green card holder. Mr. Koussa mentioned he got the best advice from Ms. Wong to change his visa status and continue his graduate studies at CSU, especially after he told her his grandfather immigrated from Syria in 1890, during the first wave of immigrants from the Middle East. Mr. Koussa did exactly as Ms. Wong told him to do, and continued on his way to achieve his American dream and became a U.S. citizen in five years. After that, he started teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) at Cuyahoga Community College and became the International Student Advisor there for 20+ years. He is now employed at Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC as the Ethnic Consultant and Arabic Translator.


The list of scheduled speakers and panelists was truly impressive, and included more fellow immigration attorneys and professionals, such as Mrs. Svetlana Schreiber; Ms. Gia Hoa Ryan, former lead Community Liaison at Cleveland City Hall/Mayor’s office and Leader of the Vietnamese ethnic group; and ICC-WIN Board member, attorney Mr. Joseph Meissner, who put together a great information booklet containing a wide array of articles about immigrants/refugees and their impact on the United States. The syllabus featured articles on such subjects as DACA, Sanctuary Cities, and what Governor Kasich has done to assist immigrants. The one we especially want to read is “How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration,” which should be very interesting. Also included in the speakers were Mr. Joseph Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland; Mr. Steve Salvi, Founder of Ohio Jobs and Justice; and Mr. Alassane Fall, ICC-WIN board member and leader of the Senegalese ethnic group.

I need to remind our readers that the International Community Council-Worldwide Intercultural Networks, ICC-WIN, represents a group of professional board members and ethnic leaders representing over 116 ethnic groups in Northeast Ohio. However, the purpose of this event was to provide a forum of organizations serving international constituents with the objective of identifying challenges and opportunities for the international community and establishing priorities for action from 2018 to 2020.

Along these lines, Mr. Ken Kovach, President of the board of directors of ICC-WIN, kicked off the program by speaking of the great success of “The World in Your Backyard” series, which has been conducted over the last two years in quite a few locations throughout Cuyahoga County, especially in Solon, Ohio. We took part in and attended most of these series. Next week, a forum on life in Sweden is scheduled.

Overview of Immigration/Immigrants and Refugees and Undocumented Immigrants’ Economic Impact:

Overview: As highlighted and focused upon during the ICC-WIN Summit, it is important to cite some of the quotes and statements from the Summit booklet as part of the overviews: “Immigration is the international movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle or reside there, especially permanent residents of naturalized citizens, or to take up employment as a migrant worker or temporarily as a foreign worker.”

“As for economic effects, research suggests that migration is beneficial both to the receiving and sending countries. Research, with few exceptions, finds that immigration on average has positive economic effects on the native population, but is mixed as to whether low-skilled immigration adversely affects low-skilled natives. Studies have shown that the elimination of barriers to migration would have profound effects on world GDP, with estimates of gains ranging between 67 and 147 percent.”

Development economists argue that “reducing barriers to labor mobility between developing countries and developed countries would be one of the most efficient tools of poverty reduction. The academic literature provides mixed findings for the relationship between immigration and crime worldwide, but finds for the United States that immigration either has no impact on the crime rate or that it reduces the crime rate. Research shows that country of origin matters for speed and depth of immigrant assimilation, but that there is considerable assimilation overall for both first- and second-generation immigrants.”

Statistics: “The global population of immigrants has grown since 1990, but has remained constant at around 3% of the world’s population. As of 2015, the number of international migrants has reached 244 million worldwide, which reflects a 41% increase since 2000. One third of the world’s international migrants are living in just 20 countries. The largest number of international migrants live in the United States, with 19% of the world’s total. Germany and Russia host 12 million migrants each, taking second and third place in countries with the most migrants worldwide. Saudi Arabia hosts 10 million migrants, followed by the United Kingdom (9 million), and the United Arab Emirates (8 million)."

“Between 2000 and 2015, Asia added more international migrants than any other major area in the world, gaining 26 million. Europe added the second largest with about 20 million. In most parts of the world, migration occurs between countries that are located within the same major areas. In 2015, the number of international migrants below the age of 20 reached 37 million, while 177 with a median age of 29, followed by Asia (35 years), and Latin America/Caribbean (36 years), while migrants were older in Northern America (42 years), Europe (43 years), and Oceania (44 years). Nearly half (43%) of all international migrants originate in Asia, and Europe was the birthplace of the second largest number of migrants (25%), followed by Latin America (15%). India has the largest diaspora in the world (16 million people), followed by Mexico (12 million) and Russia (11 million)."

Economic Impacts: A survey of leading economists shows the following findings: “A consensus behind the view that high-skilled immigration makes the average American better off. Another survey of the same economists also shows strong support behind the notion that low-skilled immigration makes the average American better off. Another survey of European economists shows a consensus that freer movement of people to live and work across borders within Europe makes the average European better off, and strong support behind the notion that it has not made low-skilled Europeans worse off." According to David Card, Christian Dustmann, and Ian Preston, “Most existing studies of the economic effects of immigration suggest that these impacts are small and on average benefit the native population.” In a survey of the existing literature, Orn B. Bodvarsoon and Henrik Van den Berg write, “A comparison of the evidence from all the studies makes it clear that, with very few exceptions, there is no strong statistical support for the view held by many members of the public, mainly that immigration has an adverse effect on native-born workers in the destination country."

Economic Prosperity: “Whereas the impact on the average native tends to be small and positive, studies show more mixed results for low-skilled natives, but whether the effects are positive or negative, they tend to be small either way. Immigrants may often do types of work that natives are largely unwilling to do, contributing to greater economic prosperity for the economy as a whole: for instance, Mexican migrant workers taking up manual farm work in the United States has close to zero effect on native employment in that occupation, which means that the effect of Mexican workers on U.S. employment outside farm work was therefore most likely positive, since they raised overall economic productivity. Research indicates that immigrants are more likely to work in risky jobs than U.S.-born workers, partly due to differences in average characteristics, such as immigrants’ lower English language ability and educational attainment. According to a 2017 survey of the existing economic literature, studies on high-skilled migrants 'rarely find adverse wage and employment consequences, and longer time horizons tend to show greater gains.'"

“Competition from immigrants in a particular sector may adversely affect wages of natives in that sector, but increases wages for natives outside of the sector; for instance, a 2017 study in Science found that 'the influx of foreign-born computer scientists since the early 1990s increased the size of US IT sector; benefiting consumers via lower wages of U.S. computer scientists by 2.6 to 5.1, workers’ incomes by 0.2 to 0.3, but decreased wages of U.S. computer scientists by 2.6 to 5.1.'”

“Research also suggests that diversity and immigration have a net positive effect on productivity and economic prosperity. Immigration has also been associated with reductions in offshoring. A study by Harvard economist Nathan Nunn, Yale economist Nancy Qian, and LSE economist Sandra Sequeira found that the Age of Mass Migration (1850-1920) contributed to 'higher incomes, higher productivity, more innovation, and more industrialization' in the short-run and attainment 'in the long-run for the United States.'"

"Further, studies show that 'the elimination of barriers to migration would have profound effects on world GDP, with estimates of gains ranging between 67-147.3%.' Research also finds that migration leads to greater trade in goods and services, and increases in financial flows between the sending and receiving countries. Also, the size of the effects usually increases with the ethnic diversity of the local population, from a particular country. A 2017 study found that 'immigrants’ genetic diversity is significantly positively correlated with measures of U.S. counties’ development (during the Age of Mass Migration). There exists also a significant positive relationship between immigrants’ genetic diversity in 1870 and contemporaneous measures of U.S. counties’ average income.'”

Impact on Refugees: A 2017 survey of leading economists found that “34% of economists agreed with the statement that 'influx of refugees into Germany beginning in the summer of 2015 will generate net economic benefits for German citizens over the succeeding decade, whereas 38% were uncertain and 6% mixed results (negative, positive and no significant effects on native welfare)."

More studies that also came up with a 2017 statement written by Evans and Fitzgerald found that “refugees to the United States pay $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over their first 20 years in the U.S." An internal study by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump administration, which was suppressed and not shown to the public, found that refugees to the United States brought in $63 billion more in government revenues than they cost the government. According to University of California, Davis, labor economist Giovanni Peri, the existing literature suggests that there are no economic reasons why the American labor market could not easily absorb 100,000 Syrian refugees in a year. A 2017 paper looking at the long-term impact of refugees on the American labor market over the period 1980-2010 found that “there is no adverse long-run impact of refugees on the U.S. labor market.”

In general, “refugees integrate more slowly into host countries’ labor markets than labor migrants, in part due to the loss of depreciation of human capital and credentials during the asylum procedure. Refugees tend to do worse in economic terms than natives, even when they have the same skills and language proficiency of natives." For instance, a 2013 study of Germans in West-Germany who had been displaced from Eastern Europe during and after World War II showed that the forced German migrants did far worse economically than their native West-German counterpart decades later. A study of refugees to the United States has shown that “refugees that enter the U.S. before age 14 graduate from high school and enter college at the same rate as natives. Refugees that enter as older teenagers have lower attainment with much of the difference attributable to language barriers and because many in this group are not accompanied by a parent to the U.S. Refugees that entered the U.S. at ages 18-45, have 'much lower levels of education and poorer language skills than natives and outcomes are initially poor with low employment, high welfare use and low earnings.' But the authors of the study found that “outcomes improve considerably as refugees age.'"  

Impact of Undocumented Immigrants: “Research on the economic effects of undocumented immigrants is scant, but existing studies suggest that the effects are positive for the native population and public coffers." A 2015 study shows that “increasing deportation rates and tightening border control weakens low-skilled labor markets, increasing unemployment of native low-skilled workers. Legalization, instead, decreases the unemployment rate of low-skilled natives and increases income per native." Other studies show that legalization of undocumented immigrants would boost the U.S. economy; a 2013 study found that granting legal status to undocumented immigrants would raise their incomes by a quarter (increasing U.S. GDP by approximately $1.4 trillion over a ten-year period.), and a 2016 study found that “legalization would increase the economic contribution of the unauthorized population by about 20%, to 3.6% of private-sector GDP."  A 2017 study in the journal of Public Economics found that more intense immigration enforcement increased the likelihood that US-born children with undocumented immigrants parents would live in poverty.

Impact of International Students/F-1 Visa Status/Research studies: According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and Institute of International Education (IIE), “The United States has historically been the top destination for international students owing to its quality higher education system, welcoming culture, and relatively open labor market. Today, the Untied States remains the country of choice for the largest number of international students, hosting about 1.1 million of the 4.6 million enrolled worldwide in 2017. The next two destinations, the United Kingdom and China, hosted 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively, and dropped from 28 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2017, while the overall number of international students more than doubled in the same period. Multiple factors contribute to slowed enrollment, including student visa denials and delay, the rising cost of U.S. higher education, and an enrollment increasingly marked by rhetoric and policies that make life more difficult for immigrants, as well as changing conditions and opportunities in home countries and increasing competition from other countries for students.”

Finally, it is important to recognize an important fact and state in this respect that the economic and cultural diversity impact of international students is huge on the U.S. economy: The 1.1 million international students who study at our universities and colleges bring about a net income of $44 billion per year to our economy; that is translated into creating 200,000 jobs for our work force. Source: (Institute of International Education, IIE). Another very important aspect of this diverse global mosaic of international students, immigrants, and refugees who come from more than 140 countries of the world, makes our diversity even more beautiful and much stronger in what we can call the U.S now: a nation of immigrants.


George Koussa

Ethnic Consultant & Arabic Translator

Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC


Aimee Jannsohn