Making Cincinnati Friendly for Immigrants

Mayor John Cranley announces recommendations of his Immigration Task Force on Oct. 28 at the offices of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Mike Brown, C4AD.

Recommendations to retain high-skilled, documented immigrants and to protect undocumented immigrants were part of a plan announced Oct. 28 by Mayor John Cranley’s Immigration Task Force aimed at making Cincinnati “the most immigrant-friendly city in the United States.

“While there is political rhetoric around the country saying (immigration) is not a good thing, we are emphatically saying we love immigration, we want more immigration,” Cranley said. “We believe it is a key to our economic future and to a better, more just society.”

When speaking of the city’s economic future, Cranley was referring to immigrants who are naturalized citizens or eligible for citizenship. This group of documented immigrants represents 66.2 percent of the city’s foreign-born population, according to a report from Partnership for a New American Economy released by Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce at the press conference.

The mayor, Chamber CEO Jill Meyer, and Task Force Co-Chairs Raj Chundur and Tom Fernandez emphasized the economic benefit of documented immigrants. They are attractive because of their advanced education, high-tech skills, entrepreneurship, spending power, and willingness to invest in local businesses.

“Between 2000 and 2013, foreign-born business owners accounted for all of the growth in Main Street businesses in the metro area,” Meyer said, citing data from Partnership for a New American Economy. Main Street businesses are small businesses in retail, accommodations and food services, and neighborhood services.

When asked how undocumented immigrants fit into the plan, the mayor said, “We don’t really get into that so much as making sure that everyone in our community is treated with human rights and respect.”

The task force recommended that the city, including its police department, accept identification cards issued to undocumented immigrants by a coalition of faith-based organizations. The Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati hope to implement this recommendation, provided city council adopts the necessary legislation.

“Another one of the recommendations is a crackdown on wage theft,” said Cranley. Vice Mayor David Mann indicated that his office would be coming forward with a proposal to address the issue.

The task force plan also recommended cultural sensitivity training for the Cincinnati Police Department, assistance in cases where safety and rights have been violated, and educational outreach on financial literacy and English as a second language.

The mayor will present the recommendations to city council for adoption in mid-November.

By Mike Brown,