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This Side of Immigration: How Reforming Our Immigration Law will Make America Stronger, Building One Ohio Labor and Civil Rights Forum, Chocolate Walk

On Friday, May 7th, we went to the City Club in order to attend a program titled "This Side of Immigration: How Reforming Our Immigration Law will Make America Stronger" in which the speaker was Mr. Daniel Garza, Executive IMG_0780Director of the LIBRE Initiation which is a "non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community so that it can thrive and contribute to a more prosperous America."

Prior to his current position, Mr. Garza served as Deputy Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of the Interior for the George W. Bush administration as well as Associate Director of the Office of Public Liaison in the White House.

During his presentation, he talked about his own background as the child of farm workers (his grandfather came here from Mexico as a laborer after World War II) who traveled from job to job in several states. His family worked hard, saved money and was finally able to purchase a motel in the state of Washington where they prospered. Mr. Garza thus brought first-hand knowledge to what he was talking about regarding immigration reform.

Mr. Garza is certainly on our side in terms of upholding the contributions that immigrants have made to this country IMG_0781and the tremendous things that they have the potential to do. He favored a market-driven immigration policy that would provide for the currently undocumented workers to be issued "working visas" that would allow them the power of job mobility and the ability to be promoted. In other words, the foreign-born worker would not be required to stay with one employer but could move to another job that paid better. What's more the worker should be allowed to travel to his country of origin and be united with his/her family. As far as a pathway to citizenship, Mr. Garza said that this was the "ideal" and was in favor of a system that placed before mentioned workers at the end of the line behind those who came to the United States legally.

In order to make this happen, Mr. Garza fiercely maintained that both the democrats and the republicans need to lay aside their ideologies and work together. Accordingly, he did not have very kind words for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Surprisingly, he did not favor DAPA (which would grant deferred action status to certain illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. since 2010 and have children who are American citizens or lawful permanent residents) although he was sympathetic to what it was trying to do because he believed that President Obama exceeded his authority by attempting to do this through an executive order instead of working with Congress.

During the Q and A, we asked him if he favored an "English Only" constitutional amendment and he answered by saying that English is the established language of the United States and that he was totally in favor of making English classes more available to those who were struggling to learn. He shared with us all statistics that showed that after a person became fluent in English, his/her salary quadrupled. He did not, however, believe in the "governmental coercion" of a constitutional amendment.

Interestingly, Mr. Garza lives in Texas in an area that has a 25 foot wall that stretches 10 miles along the border. He thus asked an acquaintance of his who worked as a border agent about its success and was told that even with the wall, 1,000 undocumented people were crossing over each day.

At this luncheon, Mr. Garza was preceded as a speaker by Mr. Jose Feliciano, Jr. of the Hispanic Roundtable who gave an excellent introduction that really got us ready to hear what Mr. Garza would be talking about.  Among the facts cited by Mr. Feliciano were that 14% of the nation's population was foreign-born compared to 5% in 1965. Today there are 61 million immigrants living in the U.S. (11 million of which are undocumented) and immigrants comprise a greater percentage of the nation's total population than any other time in more than a century.

Nevertheless, since 1996, we have tried to pass comprehensive immigration reform four times since 1996 and have failed four times. Meanwhile...

That Friday we attended another event in two parts. That event was the Building One Ohio Labor and Civil Rights Forum which took place at the Wolstein Center and was sponsored by such organizations as Cleveland State University, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, the Ohio AFL-CIO and several labor unions and workers IMG_0770coalitions.

As the program notes read, "Building One Ohio is an affiliate of Building One America, an organization of institutions and leaders who believe that organized people, acting in thoughtful and powerful ways can create a more inclusive, sustainable, and just society...Building One America's purpose was to fight for an promote a fully inclusive society that provides equal access to middle class opportunity and security for all Americans regardless of race, class or ethnicity."

From 10am to 3pm, there were speeches, panels, and a luncheon.  Unfortunately, because of our City Club engagement, we could only stay for the first hour in the morning and come back for the last hour in the afternoon.

We talked several people, including the co-moderators Ms. Pierrette (Petee) Talley from the Ohio AFL-CIO and Prof. Robert Kleidman from CSU, who very much agreed that immigration reform and justice for immigrants were imperative keys to progress.

We especially liked talking to Mr. David Rusk, a renowned urban policy consultant and former mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico about the history of immigration in the U.S. Mr. Rusk believed that the 1965 immigration law really transformed the United States into "the world's first global society" and even wrote a paper about immigration which he promised to email to us and we look forward to both receiving it and reading it.IMG_0797

Afterward a day of running back and forth, we were ready for a break so we drove up to Painesville where we took part in the "chocolate walk" to promote local businesses wherein the participants (us) simply visited the various shops on Main Street where we were treated to a piece of chocolate at each stop. Along the way there were a lot of vendors mostly selling beautiful artwork that was created locally as well as a band playing at the corner.

Not exactly as socially conscious as the other two events of the day, but beneficial to the local small businesses and a charming interlude for us.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

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