It has often been said that the United States is a country of immigrants. Since the
turn of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Irish, Italian, Slovenian and Hungarian
immigrants, among others, have found their way to cities such as Cleveland, Ohio, to start
new lives. America was seen as a melting pot of backgrounds, where economic opportunity
and good fortune bubbled within reach of anyone willing to take a chance and pursue a
better future for themselves and their families. Given this welcoming past, it is quite curious
that, since 1955, “nine national surveys have shown an overwhelming majority of U.S.
citizens opposed to increasing immigration levels” (Fallon, 1996, p. 141). There has been
and continues to be a debate in this country about the impact of immigration on the U.S.
economy and society. Significant amounts of research have provided both proponents and
opponents of immigration with data to buttress their respective arguments. However, in the
final analysis, it is difficult to dispute that immigration provides – or has the potential to
provide – an economic benefit to our gross domestic product (GDP) and contributes to the
long-term stability of our society.
As Northeast Ohio begins the second decade of the 21st century, local political,
business and community leaders are engaged in a concerted effort to redesign and recast the
future of the region economically and socially. Several initiatives are currently under way
to improve educational attainment for students from preschool through college graduation,
stimulate business and economic growth, and enhance the quality of life for people in
the region. These efforts include early-childhood development programs, innovative and
career-oriented public schools, and scholarship and mentorship programs, to reference a
few. Although noble, these efforts have generated marginal results at best, particularly for
marginalized immigrant and minority populations.