Talking Points for Public Charge Changes


The proposed rule change so broadens the definition of “Public Charge” as to include millions of people who are already contributing members of society and the economy.  It implicitly and incorrectly assumes that people who receive benefits now cannot become productive contributors in the future.

Most immigrants are not eligible for public benefits until they have had been in the US for 5 years. So, if at any point they need assistance, they will now need to choose to receive public benefits or have the chance to apply to be a legal permanent resident and eventually a citizen-where one has full rights to apply for and use public benefits. For many immigrants, education and income guidelines will affect their ability to get a visa possibly more than the use of public benefits themselves.

Instead of keeping the current definition of a “public charge” as someone “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence,” DHS would start denying green cards and temporary visas to anyone who is deemed likely at any time in the future to receive any government benefits from a specified list.

Under current rules, you are not considered “likely to become a public charge” as long as you have a sponsor who demonstrates income greater than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines (currently $20,575 for most couples without children. Congress requires most green card applicants to have a financial sponsor – typically a family member who is a U.S. citizen – who declares their willingness and ability to support their relative and prevent them from becoming dependent on government benefits.

This will change with the new standards. Now there will essentially be a wealth test imposed on new immigrants.

The only way to ensure not being affected by the new criteria would be to demonstrate a household income above 250% of the federal poverty guidelines. That’s currently $41,150 for a couple with no children and $73,550 for a family of five.

The Migration Policy Institute used Census data to estimate the impact of the 250% income threshold and found that some 56% of all family-based green card applicants could be denied.

If this new requirement were strictly enforced by both DHS and the State Department, then the administration could begin denying more than half of all marriage green card applicants each year. That could force nearly 200,000 couples annually to either leave the United States together or live apart indefinitely, according to a new report by Boundless.

40% of all green cards issued are for family reunification, but if those family members are poor, older, or less educated their visa will be denied. Grandparents, young children, and non-working spouses contribute in significant ways to our society even if they do not meet this wealth test.

The new standards will scare people off from applying for benefits-even people who qualify for them. This is known as a chilling effect, and there is good evidence to show this will happen in the current situation:

In 1996 a welfare reform law was passed. Food stamp use by noncitizens dropped by 43%. Refugee use of food stamps fell by 60% EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE ELIGIBLE AND NOT ADVERSELY AFFECTED. Families with at least one U.S. Citizen child legally entitled to benefits fell 53%. The perception alone of a negative consequence to their immigration status was enough to scare them away from using benefits to which they were entitled.

An estimated 24 million people in the United States would be affected by the chilling effect of the public charge regulation changes. Not all will face a public charge determination, but all are likely to be nervous about applying for benefits, and some portion will in fact disenroll from benefit programs.

In Cleveland, only 13.3% of eligible immigrants are naturalizing. Anyone thinking of applying for a green card will lose that opportunity if they use public benefits or do not earn sufficient income. Naturalized immigrants earn more than unnaturalized immigrants, yet these changes hamstring their opportunity to take care of themselves and their families during the interim. 

Yet Ohio’s immigrants pay into the U.S. entitlement programs they many cannot now use- to the tune of $412.1M to Medicare and $1.5B to Social Security, according to the New American Economy. They also contribute $2.1B in taxes, with no right to use the system.  

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank served 55.3 million meals in 2017

  • Over 4500 children, 10,450 seniors, and 4,600 low-income clients with health problems served.
  • Assisted with over 22,000 SNAP applications submissions
  • Made over 17.5 million meals available through SNAP

If immigrants are not eligible or afraid to use SNAP benefits it puts further stress on existing resources.

Immigrants help stabilize our population. In Ohio, there were 150,000 estimated lawful permanent residents in 2014, according to DHS. 737 refugees settled in Cleveland that same year and nearly 1,100 refugees resettled in Cleveland in 2016, according to the Refugee Service Collaborative. Many of these immigrants fill important jobs, bring new ideas to our community, and are more educated than the native-born population.

A 2018 report on Ohio’s New Americans found that 42.1% of Ohio’s immigrants have a 4-year degree or higher, according to the latest figures from the Census. That ranks Ohio as the most educated state in the nation for immigrants, tied with Maryland. Ohio’s 513,5929 immigrants have an oversized impact in ensuring that Ohio is globally connected.

By comparison, only 26.7% of native-born Ohioans are college-educated. That difference in college educational attainment between Ohio’s immigrants (42.1%) and their native-born counterparts (26.7%) is 15.4 percentage points: the largest divide in the nation.

Immigrants work in growing fields and fill employment gaps. The New American Economy found that the top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers are:

9.1%    Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

7.7%    Educational Services

7.6%    Manufacturing

7.2%    Health Care and Social Assistance

7.1%    Transportation and Warehousing

Ohio’s immigrants primarily work in the Management, Business, Healthcare, and the Arts—a diverse professional services sector that includes industries such as education, hospitals, and other health facilities, and computer systems and legal services. Specifically, 43.6% of Ohio’s immigrants in the labor force work in the professional services sector: the second-highest concentration in the nation. Over seventeen percent (17.3%) work in Production and Transportation, ranking in the top 20 nationally. If these workers come upon hard times and cannot apply for benefits to support themselves and their families, will they quit? What kind of labor shortage will this cause? What kind of strain on the economy will workers who are not well fed and have medical care create?

About 20% of Ohio’s college-educated immigrants are underemployed—the fiscal effects are significant, with half a billion lost in foregone earnings and an associated $53 million in unrealized payroll tax receipts, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Public benefits can help support these immigrants while they work to obtain stronger language skills or acclimate appropriately to enter the workforce. It is important to support our immigrants so they can be as successful as they can and achieve their American Dream.

The New American Economy found that NEARLY 44% OF AMERICAN’S FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES WERE FOUNDED BY AN IMMIGRANT OR CHILD OF AN IMMIGRANT, and the children of these immigrants, who generation after generation have found even more success than their parents, have played a central role in shaping America’s economy. Immigrants pay into public benefits anyway, pay taxes anyway, and then go on to entrepreneurs. The least we can do is offer them support when they need it without tying their “self-sufficiency” to a green card.

The Fiscal Policy Institute found that immigrants applying for green cards based on family status or employment would be primarily affected. These types of immigrants are the ones who create stable home environments for the most growth and wellbeing of their communities, hence severely handicapping the economic security of those families as well as local economic growth.


Having an income of under $15,000 for a single person or $31,000 for a family of four would be weighed negatively, and could lead to a denial. Thus, coming from country with lower standards of living makes it practically impossible to pass the public charge test-codifying the racist, xenophobic rhetoric used by the President regarding which immigrants are worthy to be in the United States.

6.9 million children who are eligible for public benefits may not receive them because their parents are afraid to apply because of the parents’ status, thus weakening families and denying children the right to grow up healthy.  

NEO has the densest population of foreign-born residents in the state of Ohio. The immigrant population in the state at large is 4.3%, in Cleveland it is 5.2% but owner-occupied housing in Cleveland is 41.8% vs state rate of 66.1% makes denying immigrants use of public housing even more problematic.

13% of immigrants in Cleveland speak another language than English vs 6.9% statewide. Public charge changes would significantly affect Clevelanders at a disproportionate rate.

Median household income in Cleveland is $27,800 vs $52,400 statewide. Public charge changes would have a negative compounding effect because immigrants in poverty would not have any social safety net.

Ohio's population lost about 183,000 native-born Ohioans over the past six years. But over that same period, nearly 113,000 immigrants moved into the state, "helping stabilize Ohio's population, and are, in fact, a source of growth." (

42.1% of Ohio’s immigrants have a four-year degree.

43.6% of Ohio’s immigrants work in the professional sector.

62.2% of Ohio’s immigrants are married with children.


Cuyahoga: 47.6% Native, married-couple family; 65.5% foreign-born, married couple family

Divorce rate: 9% vs 14% Foreign-born vs. Native-born

(Source: ACS 5-Year 2015 Percent of Married Family Households.)

Immigrants in Ohio are well educated but may not come with enough income to be awarded visas, change of status, or green cards, but that doesn’t mean they are a drain on our economy, they in fact help it by stabilizing the population and workforce.

It’s not just high-skilled immigrants Ohio needs, but low-skilled immigrants as well. In fact, many of America’s fastest-growing occupations require no secondary education at all, including construction and leisure and hospitality. Here, 18.1% of Ohio’s immigrants work in the service sector—including janitorial, housekeeping, and the food and beverage industry—while 6.5% work in construction and maintenance. The lower-skilled occupation that’s in most demand, however, is in personal care and home health, with an additional 1.1 million care providers needed by 2024. Yet the supply of workers is increasingly unmet.





Foreign-born workers play an increasingly important role in the stabilization of our economy and labor market as badly needed labor as baby boomers retire the growing labor force gap grows. Immigrants and their U.S. born children will mitigate this growing labor gap over the next several decades.

Home health aides, for instance, earn an average $10 per hour. To that end, there’s substantial evidence that shows immigrants fill the nation’s most demanding jobs in large part because native-born Americans won’t. (

23.3% of employed foreign-born persons 16 years and older work in service occupations-health care support, food preparation, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, personal care and service.

It is often cited that immigrants take jobs and reduce wages. In fact, foreign-born workers add jobs by increasing consumer demand and they specialize in jobs that enhance demand for native-born workers by making the latter more productive (Cato Journal, Vol. 37, No. 3).

How many mothers, with the support of a foreign-born nanny, go back to work after having children? Or how many middle professionals can employ a foreign-born home health aide to help with their ailing parent and not have to take extended leaves from work? But it is precisely these immigrants that the proposed public charge changes effect because these kinds of jobs tend to not pay living wages, which precipitate the need for public assistance, which can get this caretaker deported if the proposed changes go into effect.

A total of 8.3 million children who are currently enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP or receiving SNAP benefits are potentially at risk of disenrollment, of whom:

5.5 million have specific medical needs:

615, 842 children with asthma,

53,728 children with epilepsy,

3,658 children with cancer, and

583,700 children with disabilities or functional limitations.


Nearly 2 million children are at risk of being disenrolled from these programs as parents choose between applying for a green card or receiving Food Stamps and Medicaid for their children. (JAMA Pediatrics. Published online July 1, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.1744)

Some children will themselves be subject to the Trump Rule. A far greater number live in families that will likely experience a chilling effect. In the United States, 9 million children under 18 years old live in families with at least one non-citizen family member and that have received one of the benefits specified by the Trump Rule. The large majority, 7.8 million of the 9 million, are United States citizens with a right to those benefits.

Legal immigrants use federal public benefit programs at lower rates than U.S.-born citizen

32.5% of native-born citizen adults receive SNAP benefits

25.4% of naturalized citizen adults receive SNAP benefits

29% of noncitizen adults receive SNAP benefits

In addition to immigrants’ lower rate of SNAP usage, they also receive lower benefit values, costing the program less, according to the National Immigration Forum.


29% of people born in the United States would be deemed unacceptable if they were subjected to the same test. (

The USDA calculates that every dollar in new SNAP benefits results in $1.80 in total economic activity in Ohio. There are over 37,000 households receiving SNAP benefits in Ohio.

3.5% are Latino/Hispanic households

38.4 are white households

50.3% of households have children under the age of 18

Over 60 million dollars a year are awarded in SNAP benefits, that generates more than 108 million dollars in economic activity produced.

Boston Medical Center’s Children’s HealthWatch’s study in 2018 surveying over 35,000 immigrant families have found that SNAP enrollment has dropped 10% in the first half of 2018, showing that the chilling effect started before these standards were even put in place.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute ran a simulation just regarding the use of the two most popular public subsidies: SNAP and Medicaid. The economic impact of potential disenrollment is HUGE.

Simulated Impact of Trump Rule

15% Disenrollment in SNAP and Medicaid 25% Disenrollment in SNAP and Medicaid 35% Disenrollment in SNAP and Medicaid
Reduction in Benefits $7.5 billion $12.5 billion $17.5 billion
Potential Economic Ripple Effects $14.5 billion  $24.1 billion $33.8 billion
Potential Jobs Lost 99,000 164,000 230,000


If money on this scale is withdrawn from the economy, there would be predictable ripple effects to businesses and workers. Withdrawal of SNAP funding means a reduction in spending in grocery stores and supermarkets. When families lose health insurance, hospitals and doctors lose income. Other spending would be reduced as well, as families struggle to pay food and health costs.

SNAP and Medicaid, along with other public benefits serve as an important economic stabilizer: they create a bigger stimulus during an economic downturn and less in a period of high growth, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

The chilling effect will hurt workforce development. As our nation continues its efforts to build a skilled workforce it is contending with record low unemployment. Businesses are struggling to fill open positions, particularly for middle-skill jobs.

Immigrants account for one in six U.S. workers. They are essential to closing this skill gap. The proposed rule would undercut immigrants’ ability to access training for middle-skill jobs. Even though the public charge proposal does not apply to some categories of immigrants (such as refugees), does not include education and workforce programs, people are nevertheless expected to withdraw from a wide array of public programs out of fear and confusion.

Thus:  the chilling effect goes far beyond the scope of the rule itself.  Immigrant participation in publicly funded adult education and workforce programs is expected to decline, which we see happening already with food and medical subsidies.

When basic needs cannot be met, dropout rates for training programs increases and fewer students enroll in education and training programs. Adult learners and jobseekers will have to decide between dis-enrolling from health and nutrition programs and jeopardize their ability to complete their training or to stay enrolled in the programs and potentially jeopardize their immigration status. Without being able to use public benefits such as SNAP and Medicaid to take care of basic needs, how will immigrants ever get past the economic hurdle to becoming economically self-sufficient?

Under the proposed regulation, one could be barred for having a child with a chronic illness, a home mortgage, a past dispute that has impacted one’s credit score, or an annual income under $63,000 a year (above the median household income for U.S.-born families), to name just a few of the numerous potentially disqualifying factors.

As a result, many immigrants who are working full time, supporting a family, and contributing to the economy could be barred admission or denied permanent residency. Legal status could be denied even to immigrants who are up to 95 percent self-sufficient, according to the CATO Institute.

Regarding Employers:

A U.S. employer is going to find it more difficult and much less predictable to extend the status of a highly skilled worker on an H-1B visa or to help switch a key recruit from a student visa to an H-1B.

Unless the employer is paying the worker more than that newly made-up threshold – 250% of the poverty line – they might not be able to renew their work visa and stay in the United States. Assuming $73,550 for a family of five, that’s potentially going to be some portion of H-1B professionals.

According to DHS the new public charge rule would affect over 500,000 temporary visa applications each year and compliance costs could top $1.3 billion over the next decade, which doesn’t include if the State Department starts applying the same standards to millions of applicants abroad.

Applicants’ approval process will become even longer, which is a burden on employers due to a new “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency form and the accompanying evidence.


Any of the following factors could become a “negative factor” that convinces DHS you are likely to become a public charge:

  1. Prior or current use of certain public benefits.
  2. Being older than 61.
  3. Being younger than 18.
  4. Having any medical condition that could interfere with school or work.
  5. Not having sufficient resources to cover such a medical condition.
  6. Not having private health insurance.
  7. Having several children or other dependents.
  8. Having financial liabilities.
  9. Having “bad credit” or a low credit score.
  10. Having no employment history.
  11. Not having a high school diploma or higher education.
  12. Not having “adequate education and skills” to hold a job.
  13. Not speaking English.
  14. Receiving an application fee waiver from DHS.
  15. Having a sworn financial sponsor whom DHS feels is “unlikely” to follow through.

These factors in any combination mean only wealthy, educated, working-age people are deemed worthy enough to reside in the United States and maybe eventually become United States Citizens

When you have to choose between getting a green card and taking your child to the doctor or letting them go hungry, there is a problem, and it is not that immigrants are depleting public resources.  The public charge changes deny humans the chance to contribute economically and socially, and by default will cost our taxpayers billions, our employers great workers, and our dignity as a nation of immigrants.


* * *








Compiled by Elizabeth Cusma for Global Cleveland, July 2019

The Irish are Coming


Everyone knows that the Irish-American connection is strong. Cleveland has a great relationship with our Irish partners, as evidenced by the recent visit by The American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to Cleveland on August 8th.

Enterprise Ireland is the Irish Governmental Agency that supports Irish companies expanding to global markets. The American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland represents the 700 American firms in Ireland and trade from the $446 billion in U.S. investment in Ireland.

Mr. Redmond, Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland and Mr. O'Rourke, Chairman of Enterprise Ireland came to Cleveland as part of a multi-city visit to meet with companies and evaluate markets. Cleveland-native Mr. Edward Crawford was just named United States Ambassador to Ireland, and so the trip here was particularly meaningful to our guests.

In collaboration with the Irish Network of Cleveland and TeamNEO, Global Cleveland helped arrange a packed day of meetings. To begin, the group met with ParkOhio, Ambassador Crawford's company, Eaton Corporation, JumpStart, Cleveland Clinic Innovations, and RelateCare-a rapidly growing Irish company in Cleveland. They had an early afternoon stop at the Irish Cultural Garden where Councilman Blaine Griffin welcomed our guests to Cleveland and commemorated the great history between us. The evening ended with a reception in the Red Room where representatives of  these firms were able to mix and mingle.  City Council President Kevin Kelly was in attendance along with Councilmen Kerry McCormick, Martin Keane, and Brian Kazy-all of Irish descent. President Kelly presented Mr. O'Rourke and Mr. Redmond with a Welcoming Scroll each which honored our partnership and welcomed them and their business to Cleveland.

The purpose of the visit to CLE is for the AmCham to launch a “How to Invest in the U.S.” guide, - Mindy McLaughlin from Team NEO and Mark Owens of the Irish Network of Cleveland helped with area introductions. Together we showed how strong our Irish-related/business assets are in Cleveland. It was meant as a ‘plant a seed’ type visit for future visits by Irish companies who have expressed an interest in expanding/investing in the Cleveland area, but Messers O'Rourke and Redmond seemed very pleased with their visits, so we expect to bear more fruit in the months and years to come. 

On behalf of Global Cleveland, we would like to thank The Irish Network of Cleveland, TeamNEO, IDA Ireland Enterprise, IBM, Cohen &Co, American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland, Eaton Corporation, Jumpstart, Cleveland Clinic Innovations, RelateCare, and Cleveland City Hall for such an amazing day.

Global Cleveland's Position on New White House Rule to Limit Legal Immigration

While it has been in effect since 1882, the term “public charge” was never defined and therefore has meant different things over time. Different standards have been applied. It is a nebulous set of standards that can be adjusted to fit a particular climate or set of principles, depending on the current President’s views and value of international newcomers.

Today’s change is straightforward: the government is trying to stop immigration, not illegal immigration, but all immigration. Full stop.

As of October 15, 2019, when these changes will go into full effect, applicants for admission, adjustment of status, and non-immigrant visa holders trying to extend their stay will have to prove by unreasonable standards they will not become a public charge at any time in the future. This means they cannot have used public benefits such as SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, Section 8 housing, or TANF for 12 months in a 3-year period -or- will need to earn annually more than 250% above the federal poverty guidelines. For millions of families, native-born or newcomer, these benefits have been a lifeline in the short-term, and a ladder to economic success in the long-term.

There is no difference between a Mexican immigrant coming to the U.S., working, saving money to bring his family over, and creating a better life for his children than what our grandparents did when they came from Slovenia or Poland or Greece 100 years ago. How many of our grandparents earned the equivalent of $63,000 when they came here? They would have been ineligible to enter the United States, and we wouldn’t be here. Are we going to deny other families that same opportunity? Are we going to deny native-born Americans the ability to benefit from the thousands of companies started by immigrants, now employing major sectors of our total workforce?

Immigrants use federal benefits at a lower rate than native-born Americans. 32.5% of native-born citizen adults receive SNAP benefits and 29% of noncitizen adults receive SNAP benefits. The benefit being, according to the USDA, every dollar in new SNAP benefits results in $1.80 in total economic activity in Ohio. There are more than 37,000 households receiving SNAP benefits in Ohio, and the average benefit per person is $124.12 – that’s a huge stimulus of roughly $8 million a year. The downside being that disenrollment in public benefits creates a disproportionate economic loss: if there were a 25% disenrollment in SNAP nationally there would be an economic loss of $24.1 billion and 164,00 jobs lost. In food security terms, this will also stress an already stressed-out food bank system, pushing more families to hunger.

The changes to the public charge will create a chilling effect, and already has, which is affecting immigrants. Enrollment rates are dropping. Parents are being forced to choose between applying for a green card or using SNAP benefits to feed their family or take their sick children to the doctor. In what world is that right? In what nation is that acceptable?

Public benefits are a safety net that help families get ahead when times are good and help families stay out of abject poverty when times are bad. They allow people to go to school to become better educated and earn more instead of working just to make ends meet. The public charge changes will now use that to deny an immigrant the right to stay here or the right to adjust their status and get on track to become full citizens. As it stands, 1/3 of U.S. citizens would fail the public charge criteria if it were applied to everyone. Do we want every third neighbor forced out simply because they do not earn enough money? What about the immigrant student who has a degree from a great university but doesn’t earn a high enough salary? Shouldn’t they be allowed to stay?

Ohio has the most educated immigrants in the country, but Cleveland’s median income is $27,800 – nearly half of the state’s median income. And 13.6% of immigrants speak a second language, compared to 6.9% statewide.

This means the new changes will significantly affect Cleveland and Northeastern Ohio at a disproportionate rate. However, immigration has helped mitigate the population loss is Cuyahoga County and immigrants fill jobs in the high demand sectors like professional services, healthcare, and manufacturing. We cannot forget that 44% of American Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or child of an immigrant. Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs’ parents were immigrants. Big Lots was started by a Russian immigrant, Capital One was founded by a British immigrant. Like the Heinen’s on East 9th and Euclid? Thank an immigrant. Feel good about the world-class healthcare we have at the Cleveland Clinic? The CEO is an immigrant.

Immigrants stabilize our economy and population. They bring new blood and fresh ideas into our communities. We are imposing a wealth test on our newcomers through these new standards – a standard 1/3 of Americans couldn’t pass, a standard most of our ancestors couldn’t pass, a standard my own mother wouldn’t pass when she came here from former Yugoslavia, but a standard The President of the United States thinks will keep out “the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to be free.

On the beloved door of our nation, at the Statue of Liberty are these words:

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


This anti-“what it is to be American,” and this anti-free market growth policy must be reversed. The soul of our nation is at stake.



Updates From Our President

Three days, 2 ups and  1 down, three opportunities to make Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Ohio more welcoming. One week.

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to speak with representatives of the Executive Branch in Washington, DC. I was invited by the National Jewish Federation to speak to the policy being considered now known as the Public Charge. This policy, last in place in the 1880s, would create a scenario that would punish green card holders and long-time permanent visa holders (all legal immigrants) for accepting government food assistance, housing, health care, or even public education. The punishment? Denial of green card or visa renewal based on the acceptance of any of these widely offered often temporary measures of survival.

Our position at Global Cleveland is straightforward. All too often these orders do not take into account the pain on newcomers AND the pain on the native-born population. As an example, the nursing homes and skilled living facilities are great employers of immigrants and international newcomers. Cleaning rooms, changing beds, caring for our elderly is tough work. Without these internationally born individuals who lovingly care for our elderly and vulnerable, care would be compromised.

So, is it the Bosnian nurse’s aid who will suffer if food stamp acceptance becomes a do or die when it comes to visa renewal? Yes.

Will the residents of any one of the thousands of nursing homes suffer when an already tight and short labor market is strained even more because the Bosnian nurse’s aid is hungry, sleep-deprived, or quits? Yes and yes.

So it is with our work as fierce advocates for immigrants.

Wednesday we hosted the full faculty of University School at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy, the nation’s only pre-k through 12 English as a Second Language School. There are a lot of things that I am proud of regarding Global Cleveland’s strengths. Introducing the organization of Leadership Cleveland and over 1000 greater Clevelanders to this special school on West 46 and Clark is one of them. So often being an advocate for the immigrant community is opening a door. Opening a door for the newcomer to have access to the networks native-born Clevelanders take for granted, opening a door to someone borne here to the incredible energy and humanity of those born in another country. This is what we do daily and we do well. The joy of the faculty in learning about this school, the hopes voiced of how collaborations could take-off during this upcoming school year, all of this brings such happiness to me, to our team, to people who visited this school for the first time.

And last night I had the honor of attending the ChildLife Foundation presentation by Dr. Robbani who traveled to Cleveland from Karachi, Pakistan. Dr. Robbani is disrupting the high rate of mortality for children under the age of 5 in Pakistan. In the regions where his team of medical professionals is saving lives, the rate of children recovering from serious illness and surviving has gone from an abysmal 15% to 90%+. I couldn’t help but think of our own city’s unacceptable infant mortality rate and how much we could stand to learn from our sisters and brothers in Pakistan.

So often we feel as if we have knowledge to share with the world, and we do. And the world has a lot to teach us, a 241 years young nation. I say all this to illustrate how wide and varied the work of advocating for immigrants in Northeast Ohio is every single day. All with the purpose of making our community more welcoming, more friendly, with more newcomers moving here every year.

We need you, please volunteer and email 

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Bratislava - Cleveland 

Written by Ezra Ellenbogen 


Cuyahoga County has a reasonably large Slovak population; in fact, it has the highest of any county in Ohio, and Ohio is the state with the second-highest Slovak population overall.[1] In short, Cleveland and surrounding areas have a significant Slovak population.

Among Cleveland’s many great sister cities, there is Bratislava, which is the capital of and largest city in Slovakia. Cleveland and Bratislava have been sister cities since 1990[2], but the commitment to helping each other and creating an international dialogue has fallen off track. The most recent involvements were in 2015 when the Cleveland Philharmonic performed in Bratislava and a major meeting was held in Cleveland.[3] These programs proved beneficial and successful and could most likely have such an effect again today. The 2010-2014 mayor of Bratislava, Milan Ftáčnik, stated[4] that “this document [the sister city agreement], which was written by both mayors, was unfortunately not so much fulfilled by concrete activities.” In spite of his efforts at reconnecting the cities, we have become distant neighbors yet again. Nowadays, both sides are looking for chances to reconnect; mayors from both cities have attempted to revive the ‘sister city attitude’ that would help them thrive. However, the two cities are barely connected, despite sharing heritage; communications and flights between them are difficult.

Since then, most relations have been on a higher level between Slovakia and the US instead of between Bratislava and Cleveland, though in unrelated contexts. While this may have provided firm relations between the two countries - which are now friendly - the use of the sister city program to focus on countries at a local level makes it easier to share skills. One such example was Cleveland’s work with Bahir-Dar, Ethiopia, when they shadowed Cleveland’s medical transport to improve the efficiency of their own systems. These types of partnerships could easily help the entire country when applied and can be reciprocal, especially with large cities or capital cities. Even these specialized relations can be considered diplomatic, as they open paths for Slovakia and the United States to exchange ideas and people through local programs. With the two culturally rich cities in question, it seems that such a project would be wondrous.

The reasons for reopening relations between Cleveland and Bratislava include diplomacy, population similarities, Slovak heritage pride, and, as Milan Ftáčnik expressed when he tried to re-open relations last time: “because we believe that the cities of equal size and equal problems and have to learn from each other how to solve them.” This was greatly relevant when he said this in 2012, but even more so now with the friendliness of the two nations and the similarity of our local issues.

The similarities between Cleveland and Bratislava are numerous. First, the population counts are less than 50,000 people apart and the large Slovak population in the Cleveland area makes up for other demographic discrepancies.[5] Secondly, there are other similarities in the demographic makeup of both cities, which include Czech and German populations. Also, they are both western nowadays despite formerly being on opposing sides of the Iron Curtain. On a local level, they have similar political values. For instance, both have liberal immigration views as well as a growth in urban activism. Both cities are also pedestrian-based and rather unique in terms of available culture. However, because of Bratislava’s role as the capital of Slovakia, most of the politics of the city are nationally-inclined, although economic growth and infrastructure are prospects for both cities.

Bratislava and Cleveland are over 4,500 miles (or over 7,000 km) apart[6], but that is not the only thing that differentiates them. Even though many Clevelanders may speak Slovak at home, Bratislava is indisputably more Slovak than Cleveland. The obvious things set the cities apart, including timezones, continents, and languages. Through new-age technology, these cities are able to transcend these barriers as shown with the digital conferences hosted by Global Cleveland. The persistence of these efforts has paid off through cultural exchange and understanding as well as increased connections for the Slovak population in Cleveland; differences do not divide us.

On a related topic, it is important to note that Bratislava as a city is very internationally-inclined within the context of the city’s relations. Bratislava has many sister cities, including some that overlap with Cleveland’s, but Bratislava’s relations with Vienna and possibly Hungary could lead to Cleveland getting close to these cities and countries. Cleveland has not built a very strong relationship with their Hungarian sister city (Miskolc), so perhaps Bratislava’s geographic and ethnic closeness to Hungary, especially the general north, could help improve that relationship. Vienna and Bratislava are often considered to be the closest capital cities in the world, though this is disputed, and are arguably the closest-together (in terms of relations) sister cities. Bratislava could teach Cleveland a thing or two on how to stay close and maybe even help Cleveland to establish better relationships with their other sister cities. Bratislava is the only national capital to border two countries[7], so it is no surprise that they are adept about connecting with other cities internationally.

This brings us back to the main point of Bratislava-Cleveland relations. Cultural exchange is an important idea and could entail literary exchange or educational possibilities and even bring diplomatic opportunities. Cleveland’s Slovak population would feel at home and their heritage would contribute to the hopeful bond between Cleveland and Bratislava. Tourism is another good idea for getting cooperation back on track but is hard considering Cleveland is losing its role as an airspace hub. But if Bratislava and Cleveland were to cooperate, this could prompt increased travel between them and improve the economies of both areas. Businesses could do this as well, and because of the positive relations with Hungary and Austria, expanding opportunities from Cleveland to Bratislava could potentially lead to even more expansion, and the relationship would be good for businesses as well as economically beneficial to both cities. No matter what we do, the need for an improved Bratislava-Cleveland connection is there and Cleveland must not ignore its own Slovak population. Celebrating our heritage and connections as a city will help us thrive in these uncertain times and will not only bring people together internationally but will also set the stage for other sister city relations.

Written by Ezra Ellenbogen

Blog: Ezra's blog

[1] Taken from Census Bureau Public Data Records From 2017 Estimates


[3] and


[5] Population counts from WorldPopulationReview

[6] A rough estimate calculated using Google Earth


Guest Blog: Experiencing a Traditional Congolese Wedding

A Malaysian walks into a traditional Congolese wedding in Cleveland... it’s not the beginning of a joke. This is my experience at my first African wedding.

By Samantha Chow

When I left Malaysia for the States for a six-week professional fellowship with Global Cleveland, I anticipated experiencing different cultures and meeting new people. After all, Cleveland is home to a diverse population including refugees and immigrants of various nationalities. However, never did I once imagined I’d be able to witness a traditional African wedding. 

I was first introduced to Crispin as part of my fellowship experience to learn his life story as a refugee from Congo. He has eight children, and all of them except one daughter live in a house with him and his wife. Yes - it’s a family of 10! We spoke about his family, how he escaped to Rwanda as a refugee and his life in the United States. 

The biggest challenges for them as refugees in the US, said Crispin, are the language barrier, cultural differences, and the lack of familiarity with American laws. Luckily, his family is settling in well due to the strong community support in Cleveland. Crispin also founded a church in 2017, called the Shekinah Apostolic Ministries International“It means ‘tangible glory of God’ in Hebrew,” he explained. Before we left the coffee shop, Crispin kindly invited me and a guest to his daughter’s traditional wedding that weekend.

A traditional African wedding in Cleveland, Ohio? It would be crazy for me to pass up such an opportunity, so I very gratefully accepted and invited my housemate Farah as my guest.

Traditional African wedding ceremonies will see the exchange of dowries and are culturally symbolic to mark the union of the two families. Both the bride and groom knew each other from the church where Crispin is a pastor, and their friends and guests such as myself are also invited to cheer them on. The traditional wedding ceremony is not formal and the couple isn’t expected to live as husband and wife together yet. In this couple’s case, they have planned the formal church wedding ceremony for next year.

It’s slightly different from Malaysian Chinese culture, where we would hold the “traditional” wedding ceremony as the actual formal ceremony or a symbolic “tea presentation” to the elders of the family -- all which would usually be on the same day.

Farah and I arrived at the venue, a church hall, in anticipation of the evening. The tables and chairs were decked in blue and gold, and the groom’s family wore beautiful gowns and suits of blue. It was a lovely, warm spring evening as families and friends greeted each other. I received a few curious looks which quickly turned into friendly smiles and even a few requests for photos!

As the sole Malaysian at the wedding, I received a few inquiries about my country and some requests for photos.

The evening started off with music and greetings from the two emcees, who spoke English and Swahili. A traditional African wedding ceremony is known as a “dot”, where they exchange dowries and get to know each other’s families better. The emcees invited a representative from each side of the family up to the front, where they began sharing about their families.

As upbeat music started playing, all heads turned to the back of the room. The groom’s younger family members danced into the room while holding gifts such as woven baskets, rice, and cooking oil. It was an entire process, and everyone knew their roles. They handed some gifts over to the bride’s aunt, and it was a moment of anticipation as she took them to her table and inspected them one by one. The crowd loudly cheered every time she returned and deemed the gifts good enough to be accepted.

The dowry ceremony is a success, and the bride’s father gives his blessings to the couple, who take an embrace.


My new friends at my table were kind enough to translate, as the English-speaking emcee could not manage to explain everything that was happening. Even so, I wished I could understand everything that was said because there was just so much happy banter throughout the night. 

“I’ve brought my ‘cow’, now you bring yours,” an uncle jokingly said to his new family member, as the crowd exploded in laughter. According to my new friend sitting to my right, there were many cow-related jokes made that night. It was all in good fun, and the guests made Farah and I feel so welcomed as they introduced themselves and asked questions about our countries and cultures.

The ceremony came to an end after more than two hours, and a delectable buffet including jollof rice, lamb, and tapioca leaves was served. When we finally left for home, it was on a high note. It’s always an amazing experience to make new friends and witness a new culture, and we are glad it was with Crispin and his beautiful friends and family.

Me, Farah and the chef who helped prepare the excellent buffet spread for the wedding.



Guest Blog: Reflections on My Internship at Global Cleveland


My name is Marta Bono, and for my school’s senior project I was supposed to do an internship for a month wherever I wanted. I decided to contact Global Cleveland because I heard a little bit about what they do with immigrants and refugees, which really interested me since I want to study international relations next year in college. Global Cleveland soon contacted me back and gave me the opportunity to do the internship with them. I was a little bit nervous because I have never had a real job before, so to be exposed to such a professional environment was out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, since day one, the Global Cleveland staff has integrated me as part of their team and has made me feel welcomed.

I was lucky to be doing this internship during the month of May because so many things happened. Global Cleveland held the first Sister Cities Conference in Cleveland. Then, there was an event with all the board members in which I was allowed to attend. It was very educational for me to hear all the speaker's presentations because now I feel like I have a better understanding on how a business of such high-level works, and the whole purpose of Global Cleveland. Soon after that event, Global Cleveland took me to the courthouse to observe how a naturalization ceremony works. People from every part of the world were seated in the same room in pursuit of the same objective, to become a US citizen.  This was such an amazing experience for me to see in person. People were full of relief and emotion to be able to leave their citizenship behind and give up their country, to become an American. I participated in another event called, the Global Employer Summit, also organized by Global Cleveland. I talked to a few people who attended the event, and they all had awesome things to say. The best part though was listening to every speaker’s story and research on why it is so necessary to hire immigrants and refugees. Studies really do prove how companies that hire more immigrants and refugees, who hire international talent, help improve companies’ productivity.

Even though I am an intern, Global Cleveland gave me some highly responsible jobs. For example, Global Cleveland supports an organization called Sister Cities. I was asked to conduct research about the history of each Sister City member. Therefore, I was taken to the beautiful Case Western Reserve Library and was allowed to look through any document about Sister Cities. I have to say that Sister Cities has further made me realize the importance of cultural exchanges in order to improve and expand communities. Since I speak Italian, Global Cleveland gave me the huge responsibility of encouraging Vicenza, our Italian Sister City. I wrote the mayor of Vicenza an email in which his secretary responded. Every time that I accomplished something, the Global Cleveland staff acknowledged it and congratulated me. This behavior encouraged my motivation to do my best here.

In terms of success, Global Cleveland has taught me that behind every successful company there is an incredible team, and above all, great leadership, in this case, conducted by Joe Cimperman. So thank you so much Global Cleveland for being so open to gratefully accept me to work with you for a month, and teaching me a life lesson that I will remember for when I will get my future, professional job.

Guest Blog: Inclusivity and The Future of America

by Davidione C. Pearl

There is a burgeoning recognition that is emerging again throughout the nation. A force that once heralded the coming of the Industrial Age - fires that would forge and define an era from sea to sea, continuing through to the height of its power on the world stage, cementing what would carve out history and become our legacy as a global leader.

A spirited force that swept America like no other, of which all her many moving parts of innovation and advancement relied; this was the force of America’s newly defined people, the empowerment of welcoming empowerment of her immigrants, and consequently, the empowerment of the United States as a whole.

Global Cleveland, a non-profit organization focused on regional economic development through attracting international newcomers to employment and social opportunities understands this very intimately, and has steadfastly become the area standard bearer of inclusion and unique ways to foster nations apart from our own.

With a mission geared towards economic development, educational exchange, and cultural enrichment, Global Cleveland seeks to build bridges that stand upon the foundation of a nation’s most precious resource, it’s diverse people, and all that they have to offer - to actively connect with and welcome the skills and talents of recently relocated immigrants from afar, while continuing to cultivate local relationships with existing immigrant communities established long ago.

Headed up by former Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, Global Cleveland understands the importance and core need for inclusion as it relates to the cultural and economic successes of any city.

May 1st – 3rd 2019 marked Global Cleveland’s Inaugural Sister Cities Conference, hosted by the Cleveland Public Library in partnership with The Cleveland Foundation.

In an encouraging intersectionality of promise and heartfelt pride, the conference brought in representatives from six of the twenty-three sister cities worldwide that shared the value and importance of work being accomplished between our cities, an interfaith panel of local Judaic, Islamic, Coptic Orthodox, and Roman Catholic community leaders that spoke to the fundamentals of peace and understanding, as well as panels on immigration, education, and economic development.

The common thread throughout was the significance and urgency of releasing misconceptions and identifying creative ways to close the gap of marginalization to flourish in a way that fully reflects the truer essence and garden of humanity. To help each other be even greater, and consequently help our communities and ultimately our nations be even greater.

Founded in 2011, Global Cleveland is now poised to pull even further ahead of conventionality with establishing regional models geared towards attracting ever increasing numbers of sister-cities to partner with in pursuit of effective outcome measures, as they relate to immigration and shared prosperity.

Dismantling unavailing walls of perception one brick at a time…

Guest Blog: My Trip to Madagascar

“Have you seen the movie?”

That was usually the first question people asked me about my trip, both before and after. I had not seen the movie so I couldn’t offer a comparison. However, I really didn’t think I would see many cartoonish lemurs dancing in the streets of the capital of Antananarivo, or Tana for short.

I did see a lot of rain which wasn’t surprising as it was the rainy season. From the third floor of my hotel I watched dark heavy clouds roll into the city, dumping buckets of rain and filling the streets with standing water. Tana, like many major cities globally, does not have the built or natural infrastructure needed to accommodate heavy downpours. Storms, like the one I witnessed, may become less frequent but more intense in the future.

According to a climate change risk profile for Madagascar produced by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the country may experience more frequent or intense extreme weather events like drought or cyclones, warmer temperatures, and erratic rainfall. Extreme weather may bring about challenges in accessing water for drinking and food production as well as increased risk of diseases such as malaria and diarrheal illness. Drought could limit agricultural production and lead to higher food prices. Flooding and landslides could easily isolate entire communities. Due to the limited number of roads throughout the country, impacts on those living in rural areas could intensify as reaching people with supplies and support could be challenging.

While the world works on reducing carbon emissions with the hopes of slowing climate change, countries do their best to adapt to the changes. Nature-based solutions can help alleviate some of the impacts of drought and flooding. In Madagascar, restoring mangroves can help shorelines absorb the energy of waves thrashing coastal areas during storms, reducing flooding and erosion damage. Reforested areas could help slow the flow of water during times of heavy rain and provide help in holding moisture in the soil during drought. Protecting and rehabilitating these ecosystems would help conserve the unique plant and animal species found only in Madagascar.

Although the majority of my three week trip was spent working, I was able to leave Tana and spend some time exploring these natural wonders of the island. Just outside of the city, a private reserve rehabilitates lemurs previously kept in captivity until they are ready to be released back into the wild. I had the opportunity to see a few of the over 100 types of lemurs found only in Madagascar. Although the lemurs were within close proximity to people, they went about their business of eating, climbing, swinging, and yes, “dancing.” There was no prompting of the animals to jump on our shoulders and we were warned to maintain a distance from them. Knowing the animals would be heading back into protected areas, I was happy they were not being treated as pets.

I spent a few days in and around Andasibe Mantadia National Park, a few hours to the east of Tana. During my time there, I explored the area during the day and night with a guide. Guides are required to explore protected areas, but it really was to my advantage. I would not have spotted a green chameleon or a mouse lemur high in the tree in the darkened forest without these local experts. Locating Indri lemurs would have been challenging just staying on the park’s trail. My guide coordinated with his colleagues to find several groups of different types of lemurs off the trail system.

While visitors are drawn to the country for these types of experiences in nature, I also valued my time with the people I met. They found ways to communicate with me since I didn’t speak Malagasy. They respectively challenged my ideas and provided me with insight into their worldviews. As with every trip abroad I take, I walked away from this opportunity seeing life in a new light along with the reminder to slow down a little bit. Or as they say in Malagasy mora mora.


Written by Kristi Tabaj

Culture + Community + Culinary Arts = Culture.CLE

Culture.CLE is a nonprofit organization focused on creating a community that values diversity and appreciation for the local immigrant and refugee population by promoting immigrant-owned small businesses. Culture.CLE creates spaces that allow for open conversation and opportunity to comfortably experience other cultures and communities. One of its’ approaches is to bring together groups around food - a universally important component of culture. Given that many cultures have a strong connection to food and the time spent around the table, the monthly dinner series featuring ethnic culinary businesses is a prime way to both support small businesses and educate people on other cultures.

Culture.CLE understands the value that the restaurant industry brings by offering a path to entrepreneurship and meaningful employment opportunities for many minorities. By supporting these local, minority-owned culinary businesses we are helping generate a new customer base for years to come for these small businesses. The 50+ restaurants owned and operated by Cleveland’s immigrant and refugee population assists these newer communities in thriving in Cleveland and also adds flavor to the existing community. These businesses greatly contribute to Cleveland’s reputation as a foodie town. Simultaneously, they also help enrich a sense of place for ethnic minorities by offering a slice of familiarity from their country of origin.

Central Kitchen and Culture.CLE formed a partnership to create an authentic dining experience that would offer a unique opportunity to learn about international cultures at its’ beautiful kitchen event space. The location gives participants an intimate look into a culture by allowing them to experience being in the kitchen and chatting over regional drinks with a different ethnic chef each month.

In the dinner series first event, Chef David Ina from Zaytoon Lebanese Kitchen taught guests how to prepare a number of traditional foods and what spices make the flavors unique to a Levantine cuisine. Event guests left with: a brief overview of the history of the Lebanese culture/community/ethnicity, a history of the food, a live demonstration of how to traditionally prepare the foods, unique cultural dining customs and, where to buy and dine these foods locally.

Culture.CLE’s monthly newsletter ties together the dinner series with the larger mission by promoting the chef’s small business. The newsletter includes recipes and menus from the featured chef and connects to the nonprofit’s second component, the international book club. Soon the book club will align with the dinner series and participants will have the option to immerse themselves in a culture through literature and food! Upcoming cultures include Honduran (4/30), Congolese (5/21) and Northern Indian (6/25), and a larger line-up soon to come. So why wait for a vacation, when you can experience 50+ cultures unique cuisines without ever leaving the 216?

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Written by Samantha A. Peddicord