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Out & About in Cleveland

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Dream: An American Story

We started the day with a North Coast Chamber of Commerce networking event that was held at Peter & Co. Jewelers in Avon Lake. For an early morning event held on a day with questionable weather, it had a surprisingly good number of people there and we made about 20 new contacts including Mr. Stan & Ms. Denise Zarycki, a husband and wife real estate team that work for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. They already sent us an email inviting us to connect with them on linked in which we promptly agreed to do.

We met Mr. Emil Bagi from Ridge Way Management, LTD. We learned that Mr. Bagi immigrated to the United States from Hungary in 1974 and became a United Citizen in 1979. He said that he loves living here due to the opportunities the United States offers but was concerned because he doesn't believe there are as many options now as there were in the 1980's due to outsourcing and the failure rate of small businesses. We told him about the program that we attended about Slovakia at the Cleveland-Bratislava Sister Cites event and it was interesting to hear his side of history as a Hungarian.

We also enjoyed meeting Ms. Jennifer LaRiccia, Team Leader of the Greater Cleveland Council Boy Scouts of America. She told us that many of the young people that she works with are foreign born and invited us to their monthly meeting at Harrison School in Lakewood. We enjoyed hearing about a little boy, who comes from a family of South African refugees, who loves scouting so much that he travels a long way to go to the meetings. At age 9, this boy is striving to be an All-American whereas his parents are cooperative but still hang on to their customs.

The DJ for this networking event was Mr. Kenny Gilder who told us that holiday parties for businesses are not the norm anymore. Since 9/11 and strict drunk-driving laws they have been decreasing in number over the years. In fact, years ago he was all booked up at this time for Holiday parties and this year only has a few. Our conversation made us look forward to the Holiday Party of Margaret W. Wong and Associates all the more!

On the evening of Thursday, November 13th, we went to Lutheran Hospital on West 25th Street to attend a panel discussion on immigration reform and a screening of a very powerful documentary named "Dream: An American Story" about the efforts to pass the Dream Act and the travails of one particular young immigrant. The sponsors of this event were the Hispanic Roundtable and the Young Latino Network.

The panel discussion featured the Mr. Aldo Bello, the filmmaker; Ms. Jennifer Peyton, Immigration Attorney; Ms. Bessie Schiroky, Philippine Nurses Association of America; and Mr. Jose Feliciano, President and Chairman of the Hispanic Roundtable. It was moderated by Mr. Julian Rogers of Cleveland State University. All of the panelists agreed that immigration reform was vitally needed at this time but didn't see any positive action in the U.S. Congress or the Senate.

Ms. Peyton said that President Obama must be very careful and "balance executive action against lawsuits and the needs of the people." She believed that he could probably expand DACA to cover family members of U.S. citizens. When Mr. Rogers pointed out that the President has the power to issue an Executive Order but Congress can choose not to fund it, Ms. Peyton replied that DACA is self-funded and it would only be question of raising the fees. Another issue that President Obama might to able to address through Executive Order is enforcement procedures at the Southern border; Ms. Peyton said that she had recently spent 10 days there trying to help.

Mr. Bello called the movement to pass the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform "one of the great civil rights movements of our times" and it is certain to continue. He reminded that attendees that the civil rights movement in the 1950's and 1960's wasn't an overnight success either. Mr. Bello went on to say that passage of the Dream Act would only "make sense" because the way things are now, public investment in these foreign born young people, whose parents brought them here illegally when they were quite young and had no say in the matter, stops when they graduate from high school. They want to go on and do something with their lives but they are not citizens and do not have a driver's license or a social security card. Instead these people are marginalized and it is horrible.

Mr. Bello couldn't give enough praise to the young people who organized on behalf of the Dream Act which passed the House of Representative in late 2010 only to go on and fail in the U.S. Senate by only 5 votes. He said that President Obama didn't give us DACA because he wanted to but because there was so much pressure on him that he had to do something or risk losing the 2012 election due a lackluster Latino voter turnout.

Mr. Feliciano urged the young people in attendance to tweet and use facebook to get the word out. He said that Ohio and the Midwest need more people to live there and immigration reform might be the key. He pointed out that both the U.S. Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce both favor comprehensive immigration reform because we have such a shortage of workers. Mr. Feliciano also talked about how he worked hard to try to get the Cleveland City Council and Mayor Jackson to designate Cleveland as a Immigrant Friendly City like St. Louis and Dayton but up to this point his efforts have not been successful.

Ms. Schiroky who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines, talked about how there are few job opportunities there so its people move all over the world to find them and thus she is here. Comprehensive Immigration Reform is needed because Philippine immigrants like her encounter bureaucratic problems bringing their families here. Ms. Schiroky became a U.S. citizen in 1986 but it took 26.5 years to bring her sister to the United States. Moreover, it is important that Philippine immigrants find good jobs because most of them send a large part of what they make home to help support their families. She agreed with Mr. Feliciano that Cleveland should be trying harder to attract more immigrants here and noted that they Mayor of Pittsburgh has made it his goal to encourage a large number of immigrants to move there.

As for the the film, "Dream: An American Story" all we can say was it was thoroughly engrossing. It told the true story of a teenager named Juan Gomez whose family brought him to the United States from Columbia when he was one year old. His parents chose to overstay their visa rather than risk taking the family back to Columbia where they didn't believe it was safe. Juan excelled in high school and had a very promising future but in 2007 his family was picked up by the immigration authorities and faced certain deportation. Juan's friends organized on his behalf, though, and now retired U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd introduced a bill that would enable Juan and his brother to remain in the United States although their parents were soon deported back to Columbia. Since U.S. Senator Dodd kept re-introducing his bill, Juan was able to stay here a number of years and attend Georgetown University. After graduation he went to work for J.P. Morgan on Wall Street but alway had the threat of deportation facing him. Juan's story is set against the backdrop of the efforts to pass the Dream Act.

No, we won't tell you how it ends but after the screening we spoke to Mr. Michael Lefort, the film's producer who told us that as he shot the last scene, Mr. Bello was very choked up because he had been filming Juan and his ordeal for about six years.

Of course we saw a number of people we knew there like Ms. Elizabeth Hijar of the Hispanic Roundtable, Ms. Maureen Deed of Catholic Charities, Mr. Jason Estremera of the Young Latino Network, and Ms. Rachel Ng of Motivasians. We met Ms. Sol Tabora and Ms. Pina DeLeon who said that they had heard that Ms. Margaret W. Wong had "done good things." We asked Mr. Bello when the film would be available on DVD because we would love to show it to Ms. Margaret W. Wong. We were told that a DVD will probably be available in February, 2015 so it will be a belated holiday present for Margaret W. Wong and Associates but one worth waiting for.

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