For Cleveland to be successful, to continue to grow and enhance our communities, we must be a “welcoming community” for immigrants. Effectively welcoming and retaining newly arrived residents is not only the right thing to do – it is a necessary strategy to generate economic development and opportunity in Cleveland.

In other issue statements, I have alluded to the “nearly unlimited list of priorities” for the new Mayor of Cleveland. But becoming a “Welcoming Community” for immigrants – both formally and in practice – is a necessity for Cleveland to become the city we want it to be. New residents generate new economic opportunities for everyone.

New American Economy notes that cities that score high in the welcoming index are communities where “all residents, regardless of where they are born, do well.” As Mayor, I will ensure that this priority is supported and implemented.

Background on Immigration and Economic Growth

The Cities Index from New American Economy (NAE) shows Cleveland making major strides in welcoming immigrants. Of the top 100 cities ranked in the last two reports, Cleveland finished in the top 15 and top 30 for how effectively we are integrating immigrants into our community.

NAE reports that immigrants contribute almost 33% of total population growth in the top 100 metro areas of the United States. Increased immigrant population also leads to growth in entrepreneurship and overall economic development.

In addition, immigrants provide a crucial source of talent to fill greatly expanding job opportunities in healthcare and other key industries:

As workers, they serve as engineers designing machines in advanced manufacturing in Cincinnati, small business owners running grocery stores in Birmingham, and construction laborers building new homes in Miami… In metro El Paso, foreign-born workers made up one in three healthcare workers in 2017.

What Does it Mean to be a ‘Welcoming Community’?

Cleveland has already begun to build and implement its own strategy through the leadership of Global Cleveland. To maintain our momentum in welcoming immigrants to Cleveland, there is still much more we can do. Cities with high NAE index score have employed a wide variety of strategies:

36 of the 100 cities in the index have an office for immigrant affairs and more than half run or support entrepreneurship programs tailored for immigrants.

62 cities have support services to guide immigrants through the naturalization process toward citizenship. The city and county support Global Cleveland – our dynamic and effective welcoming organization – but there is more that city government can do directly to make this a priority.

  • St. Louis, MO started the Mosaic Project – designed to allow the region to maximize the attraction of foreign talent to fill local jobs and fuel growth. St. Louis has described the need “to create a welcoming tonality” in one’s community (Brookings paper, 2019).
  • Louisville, KY has created a Global Louisville collaboration between local government and the regional chamber of commerce – focused on career ladder support, small business development, cultural competency improvement and effective coordination with tourism promotion and messaging (Brookings).
  • Charleston, SC undertook a “global fluency” approach – involving both the integration of new foreign residents and education to Charleston residents on the benefits that foreign investment and culture can provide (Brookings).

Action Steps

I believe that our city government can do more to support embrace immigration to enhance community and economic development. As Mayor, I intend to do the following:

  • Talk about it. Immigration and welcoming should be a regular topic when I speak in Cleveland and with our residents – and I intend to keep it on my agenda and in the public consciousness routinely.
  • Promote and support the continued success of Global Cleveland, which has been a stalwart presence and effective community leader in this effort.
  • Assign a senior staff member to immigration and welcoming as a priority of the Mayor’s office.
  • Complete the process to be a “Certified Welcoming” community through the national “Welcoming America” organization. This designation is a simple way to ensure that our community demonstrates to the world that we are committed to welcoming immigrants to Cleveland and supporting them.
  • President Biden has expressed support for a “Heartland Visa” program that would allow place-based immigration – and Cleveland should avail itself of opportunities to benefit from early implementation of such strategies.

As with other issues facing Cleveland, I will ensure a collaborative and effective advocacy strategy for state and federal policy related to immigration.