Cleveland, Ohio, October 9, 2017–The devastation and suffering in Puerto Rico breaks our hearts. Cleveland shares a long and special kinship with the commonwealth. Puerto Ricans are by far our largest Hispanic community. Many of us have friends and family in Puerto Rico, parents and sisters and brothers whom we know are in pain and maybe in peril.
Now is the time to put Cleveland’s welcoming tradition and policies into action. Puerto Rico needs help now. People need food and water and electricity. A shattered infrastructure must be rebuilt. We encourage three simultaneous approaches.
- Help personally and immediately.
The Cleveland Foundation, in cooperation with Puerto Rican community groups, has set up a fund that will get aid to the right places as quickly as possible. Between now and Nov. 30, Greater Clevelanders can visit www.clevelandfoundation.org/puertorico to give online. All donations are to be transferred directly to the Puerto Rico Community Foundation (Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico) and specifically designated for hurricane relief efforts in the hardest hit areas throughout Puerto Rico.
- Push the federal government to respond more vigorously.
Let us encourage our national leaders and representatives to expend all available resources to help fellow Americans in distress.
- Embrace the unique role Cleveland can play.
Many Puerto Ricans will be looking to move to the mainland, for their own safety and for the health and wellbeing of their children. Hopefully, we can make Cleveland their first choice. Let’s put out the word that they are welcome here: that they will find familiar churches and shops and often relatives, certainly friends.
The economic implications for our region are significant as the city embraces our new arrivals. Housing, medical care, access to our already proven and strong human service network, and the leadership of agencies like the Spanish American Committee, would all serve to mitigate the emotional trauma and physical pain. Global Cleveland will put its Professional Connections services to work to seek job opportunities for the newcomers, many of whom will have bilingual skills.
For more than 60 years, our foundations have worked with the Puerto Rican community to create a foundation of strength and Boricua pride. In addition, Mayor Frank Jackson has declared Cleveland to be open to immigrants and refugees from everywhere. County Executive Armond Budish has made international outreach a key plank in the county’s economic development plan. Our Governor, John Kasich, speaks eloquently of the contributions of immigrants and the need to more assertively welcome newcomers to Ohio.
Let’s start with our brothers and sisters suddenly in need. Let’s help Puerto Rico heal. But let’s not be afraid to say “Bienvenidos de Cleveland,” and welcome new neighbors.
Puerto Rico is the United States. It is all of our obligation as residents of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and Northeast Ohio to act in a manner aligned with our shared values and love of our families.
President, Global Cleveland
Cuyahoga County Executive
Jose Feliciano Sr.,
President, The Hispanic Roundtable