UPDATED JUNE 3, 2015 SEE BELOW: Has John Cranley’s Momentum on Immigration Fizzled?
The short answer is, we will know in about a month.
A year ago this weekend, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced to a room full of Cincinnati Enquirer reporters and editors that he had major plans for an immigration initiative for our city.
Within a month, the Cincinnati Enquirer released an editorial endorsing the idea and calling for more immigrants for the Queen City.
Regardless of the controversy around current headlines about open borders and immigrants who are here illegally, the consensus – and studies – prove that immigration is good for our cities and economies.
The Cincinnati Enquirer noted in their plea for more immigrants to Cincinnati that:
“Once local officials are convinced of the benefits of attracting immigrants, here are some strategies to help woo them:
• Declare intentions. Mayor Cranley is in the process of appointing a task force, led by consultant Bruce Healey, to develop a strategy for attracting more immigrants. There’s power in simply declaring a city or county’s intentions to be more welcoming. Adopting such a resolution signals an intention to current and potential residents that is surprisingly powerful.”
Today, one year after John Cranley’s announcement, and proclamation that he wants to make, “Cincinnati the most immigrant friendly city in the United States,” we ask where are we now?
Did the Mayor declare his intentions, form the task force, and then momentum fizzle?
Was the Mayor just piggybacking off of the inflammatory headlines about U.S. borders and child refugees from the open border crisis?
To be fair, the announcement came, March 28, 2014, and the task force was not unveiled until midsummer of last year. But should we expect some updates from the task force and Cranley’s overall initiative ideas in that 8 months time?
A quick visit to the official website the Mayor established didn’t have any new information available for the public about progress on immigration as it relates to Cincinnati. Neither did a deep Internet search for news stories. Has the media just forgotten the story?
John Cranley’s Task Force on Immigration has a Twitter account but to all appearances their have only been ReTweets on the account and nothing in the way of real news or updates.
The Task Force is made up of five committees. They cover economic, resources/integration, education/talent retention, international attractiveness, rights and safety questions they can research and then make recommendations to the Mayor.
So far, it appears, that no tax dollars are being used in the Mayor’s initiative and the committees are made up of all volunteers.
While we wait, can anything be done now?
To date, the only concrete work we can point to is the work already being done by local organizations independent of the Mayor’s plans. Citybeat, in their July 2014 coverage of the plans, highlighted Catholic Charities Southwest Ohio’s work with the children refugees.
Agenda 360 runs the “Diverse by Design” plan which has experience attracting immigration talent to our region. And their is a lot of non-profit and chamber of commerce work in our region. The Mayor, it seems, stepped in last year to fill the gap where our local government plays a role in immigration.
The EB-5 Visa is already available which allows immigrants to enjoy permanent U.S. residency if they invest at least $1 million in economic development. That investment in very low income areas can be reduced to half a million dollars and John Cranley has stated plans to pursue that where applicable for Cincinnati. It should be noted, however, that in February of this year, ABC News did a story on the “dark side” of the EB-5 Visa. And, as far as Cincinnati becoming the most immigrant friendly city in the United States, where does this leave immigrants who want to enter legally but don’t have that kind of money to invest?
Then there is the EB-2 Visa which made headlines in early 2014 when Michigan Governor Rick Snyder unveiled a proposal to request 50,000 special visas to attract highly skilled immigrants to his struggling state.
There has been no word on updates to Cranley’s progress with the EB-5 Visa or if he has any plans at all to get creative with the EB-2.
With no information available on the progress of the initiative, I reached out to Daniel Rajaiah, Director of External Affairs for Mayor John Cranley, who told me:
“The goal is to bring some of the smartest minds to the City. There are 96 people involved with the Task Force. I finally have the recommendations of the Task Force. There needs to be some editing and then they will be released to City Council, the media, etc.”
When I asked if the Mayor has seen the recommendations of the Task Force yet, Mr. Rajaiah said, no.
Mr. Rajaiah said he will complete the edits over the next couple of weeks and we can expect to see the recommendations publicly within about 1 month.
Mr. Rajaiah also specifically mentioned to me that the efforts to bring the smartest minds to the City is, “through legal immigration”. It seems the Mayor and his administration has had time since July 2014 to codify for themselves, and now the public, that they are clear on the focus of legality when it comes to immigration initiatives when it comes to Cincinnati – where last year Citybeat reported that the Mayor, “hedged some”, on the topic of undocumented immigrants.
John Cranley, who has a Masters in Theology from Harvard, said in an interview with Urbanophile last year that being a man of faith is a part of his views on immigration, too. Morality, combined, with his cooperation with Dayton’s Mayor on immigration initiatives and Cranley’s other commitments to the development of Cincinnati overall, makes it evident that, while becoming the most immigrant friendly city in the United States will take a long time to be realized, the momentum for starting the work has not fizzled – it seems, however, the media interest in the story has. Maybe we should have started with becoming the region’s most immigrant friendly city first.
NOTE: I attempted to search Daniel Rajaiah’s tweets for updates on the matter but Mr. Rajaiah has me blocked from following his account on Twitter after a battle over sober living houses with the Mayor last year. He was very receptive to speaking with me by phone.
UPDATE JUNE 03, 2015:
A colleague of mine and I called the Mayor’s Immigration Task Force staff Friday to get an update on the recommendations and if the Mayor is going to make any announcements soon. The Mayor’s staff advised to consult the website through the City of Cincinnati website for more information.
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Jason Lee Overbey is a leader in non-profit 2.0 executive management and follower of Cincinnati and Ohio government. He also works on the front lines of the battle over the current heroin epidemic in our nation.