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Readout and Next Steps: Ohio Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Call With State Reps. Howse and Ramos, Councilperson Elizabeth Brown

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On February 1st, 2017, Ohio immigrants, refugees, and allies gathered on a conference call with elected officials to discuss Donald Trump’s Executive Orders attacking members of our communities.  The call was hosted by Ohio’s Voice.

State Rep. Stephanie Howse (Cleveland) and State Rep. Dan Ramos (Lorain) announced that they will introduce a resolution in the Ohio House the following week to support and protect immigrants and refugees.  Rep. Howse said “we will be greater if we are together.”  Rep. Ramos said that it’s important we tell our representatives how we feel about issues so that they can do their job representing us.  He says that his voice in the State House is his vote, and he wants to voice his constituents’ opinions.     

When asked what we can do, as constituents, Rep. Howse said we can contact our state representatives and ask them to support bringing the immigrant and refugee resolution forward for a hearing and vote.  She also asked us to talk to our family members and friends about these issues, so that more Ohioans can understand what immigrants and refugees are going through.   

Rep. Ramos said that it’s important to try to move the resolution forward for two reasons.  “We need legislation because it declares who were are in Ohio, but also because it encourages our congressional delegation to do the right thing,” he said.

“This place was your home yesterday, it is your home today, and it will be tomorrow,” said Ramos.

Elizabeth Brown, a member of the Columbus City Council, spoke about an innovative initiative she is spearheading in Columbus to create a legal fund for immigrants and refugees who need help fighting their immigration cases.  

She said that Trump’s policies are a “threat to what is great and right about our country.”  They are also “threatening to the health and wellbeing of our city.”  Councilperson Brown cited a Brookings study which shows that Columbus is one of the cities most affected by Trump’s Muslim ban.   

Advocates on the call discussed Columbus’ intention of becoming a “sanctuary city” and related activity in Cincinnati.  Rep. Howse was asked about the possibility of Cleveland following these steps.  she said she would discuss this with the mayor and city council.

Participants also raised the importance of making it possible for all Ohio immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses if they meet the residency, insurance. and test requirements.  This would strongly benefit public safety.  Rep. Ramos said that he had looked into this in the past and would refresh his research, reporting back to the group via Ohio’s Voice.   

Advocates from across the state then gave reports about their work and priorities.  David Leopold, a Cleveland-based immigration attorney, provided a basic overview of the immigration and refugee related Executive Orders that Trump has signed so far.

In next steps, Ohio’s Voice committed to organizing a sign-up drive for Ohioans to meet with congressional offices in district.  Planning has already begun and a sign-up email will be circulated soon.  

We also expect to hear back from Reps. Howse and Ramos about the introduction of their House resolution, and the follow-up related to sanctuary cities and driver’s licenses.

Councilperson Brown committed to staying in touch as details about the city’s legal fund continue to develop.

For more resources on the Executive Orders, see this web page at America’s Voice.  To stay in touch with Ohio’s Voice, join our Facebook page here.