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NEW REPORT: Why Ohio is Ground Zero for the Immigration Debate

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New Report Explores Ohio’s Role As a “Border State”; Highlights What’s At Stake As Gov. Kasich Joins the 2016 Race and the Immigration Debate Remains on National Stage

Immigration is already poised to be one of the most talked about topics of the 2016 race. Ohio Governor John Kasich’s (R) recent decision to throw his hat in the 2016 ring casts Ohio’s immigration issues in the national spotlight.  A new report from Ohio’s Voice, a project of the national immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, examines how and why Ohio has truly become Ground Zero for the immigration debate.

On a press call today, immigration experts, attorneys, and Ohioans directly impacted by the debate discussed this new report and explained why Ohio has become Ground Zero for the immigration debate.

As a companion to this new report, Ohio’s Voice is also releasing a fact sheet about the contributions of immigrants in the Buckeye State today, and the ways those contributions will be enhanced when the DAPA and DACA expansion programs finally move forward. The fact sheet can be found online here.

Listen to today’s call here

David Leopold, a Cleveland based immigration attorney and past President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said, “As the saying goes ‘Ohio is the Heart of it All.’  Sadly, it’s also the heart of America’s dysfunctional immigration system.  For years undocumented immigrants in Ohio have been victimized by haphazard, chaotic immigration enforcement at the hands of the local ICE field office.  Local ICE officials have thumbed their noses at the President’s enforcement priorities by withholding access to employment authorization for undocumented immigrants already granted prosecutorial discretion regardless of their economic need to support their families. Ohio ICE agents should focus on removing the worst of the worst, not hard working immigrants caught in the web of a badly broken immigration law.  What Ohio needs is a fair, common sense immigration policy, not more families torn apart by chaotic arrests, detentions and deportations.”

Added Lynn Tramonte, Director of Ohio’s Voice, “From racial profiling by the Border Patrol in Ohio; to one of the most notorious ICE field offices in the nation; to the lawsuit against Ohio families supported by Governor Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine, Ohio is a microcosm of the national immigration debate.  At a personal level, Ohio is home to thousands of families with immigrant roots, living in fear because national leaders refuse to do their jobs.  This is not the Ohio way.  Our leaders can and must do better than that.”   

Mark Heller, Senior Attorney at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, noted, “The creation of a Border Patrol Station with more than 60 Agents along the Ohio shore of Lake Erie has resulted in those Agents profiling Hispanics for seizures and arrests that are often in violation of the Constitution. In fact, Border Patrol Agents have testified of not knowing the basic Constitutional requirements of “reasonable suspicion” for the temporary seizure of a person or “probable cause” for an arrest.  Agents also testified about their use of racial and ethnic slurs–  “wets” and “wetbacks”—for which no disciplinary action is taken and some of the agents in question were later promoted. Border Patrol Agents also  expressed confusion about the legality of using race or ethnicity in determining who to select for voluntary interactions—clearly, the current system as it’s playing out in Ohio is out of control. When we have Border Patrol Agents using racial slurs, unclear on basic constitutional protections, and using race or ethnicity in determining who to question, we have a problem.”

Veronica Dahlberg, of HOLA Ohio said, “I would like to see Ohio take the lead on the immigration issue in a serious and thoughtful way, rather than be willing accomplices to harmful partisan political tactics. I know our Ohio leaders would never want families and children being harmed, or risk our national security and blunt Ohio’s economic growth, yet that’s exactly what is happening. They need to be made aware of it.”

Jessica Pantaleon Camacho, an Ohio resident and DACA recipient, concluded, “As a daughter of immigrant parents, being undocumented was something I was very aware of, it was a topic of discussion at every dinner table. I knew the fear my parents had, I had seen the struggles they had been put through day by day. It was hard for me to understand, growing up, how someone who was working 10-12 hours shifts, like my parents, could be living in a situation of so much fear. I received DACA on August of 2013 and it has changed my life completely…I know how DAPA would impact millions of people’s lives, like my parents. They’re hardworking people and have only done what they thought was necessary, which was provide their children with the best possible future.  I am so thankful for their decision and the sacrifice that they made to come to the United States. As an undocumented American I ask the leaders of my state to see how this lawsuit is not just changing my family’s life, but thousands of family’s around the state. I’m asking them to see us not as just numbers on paper, but as people that are being affected. Hopefully my story can change their point of view.”


o   Ohio by the NumbersAmerica’s Voice

o   The Latino Threshold to Win in 2016Latino Decisions

o   Latinos in the 2014 Election: OhioPew Hispanic

Ohio’s Voice is a project of America’s Voice