Ohio latinos speak out at the state house
February 11, 2013 · Print This Article
Columbus - Tuesday hundreds of Latinos traveled from as far South as Cincinnati and as far North as Cleveland to meet in the state capital to voice their concerns and despite several issues that could have been discussed, the overwhelming majority had one focus; immigration. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the League of United Latino American Citizens of Ohio (LULAC Ohio) and the Hispanic Organizadas de Lake y Ashtabula (HOLA) mobilized groups to come to Columbus and learn to speak out for themselves and tell their elected officials what they feel is important at the annual Ohio Commission on Hispanc/Latino Affairs’ Ohio Hispanic Legislative Day.
“They need us and we need to remind them,” said Daniel Ramos, state House representative of Ohio’s 56th district, keynote speaker of the event, and one of two Latino’s in Ohio’s state assembly. ““The Hispanic community is an important political force here in Ohio and throughout the United States”
During his speech at the Ohio state house, Ramos gave alarming statistics, only 61 percent of Ohio Latinos graduate, “This my friend is not acceptable, in the 21st century, having an education beyond high school is a prerequisite.” Nationally, out of all ethnic groups, Latinos are the most likely to drop out of school, and of those who do not get a diploma only one in 10 get their GED. “Achievement gaps still exist,” said the Lorain Democrat. “the question before us now is how we use our political strength for prosperity.” Ramos reminded the crowd that as an elected official, he works for them and to not stand for the status quo, but to stand up and do what is necessary to improve living conditions and have a better life. “Twenty-nine percent of us live in poverty,” Ramos said. “We need to do everything we can so the next generation doesn’t fight the same battles we did.”
Others spoke saying immigration reform would improve not only Ohio’s economy, but the entire country. According to a nonpartisan Congressional budget office, the legalization of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants would translate to a 40 billion dollar economic boost over the course of 10 years. In June the Obama administration signed a directive allowing a certain group of undocumented immigrants to be a part of what is known as the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), program. The program in part allows undocumented immigrants who graduate high school to go to college and not have the fear of being deported; however tuition cost more than Ohio citizens.
“Tuition equity is a way to keep talented students in our state and allow them to go to college,” said Nick Torres of Ohio Voice.” This is a very important issue to the state of Ohio, 13 other states have tuition equity, we believe Ohio can be the next” Currently those who wish to attend an Ohio college but are not in the country legally pay three times the amount an Ohio citizen does.
According to a Cleveland State University study, of Ohio’s 11.4 million residents, about 1.4 are in the country illegally, that does not include the roughly 500,000 Latinos in the state. Despite this increasing popular belief currently in Ohio assembly committees are an English only bill, a bill taking away worker’s compensation for a targeting group of people, and a bill which mimics Arizona Senate Bill 1070 which has received much media attention for giving too much power to law enforcement by allowing them to use discretion in pulling over someone while driving. The purpose of the day was to meet with local legislatures and share concerns. One group met with Senator Matt Lundy’s office (D-Elyria) to talk immigration reform. A group of five from Lorain met with Lundy’s representative concerning Ohio Senate Bill 323, which would take away worker’s compensation for such a small targeted group; it appears to only affect undocumented immigrants. Ed Morales spoke on behalf of the group, he asked the aide to not only help defeat SB 323 but to support federal comprehensive immigration reform. Morales asked for Lundy to contact local congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), as well as Ohio Senatorial Congressmen, Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) and Rob Portman (R-Cincinnati) – both Senators are in favor of immigration reform.
“I don’t see why Rep. Lundy wouldn’t back this,” the aide said, speaking on supporting immigration reform. In the meeting was a worker who became injured while at work, he broke his knee but because of his work situation, did not have insurance. The worker needed physical therapy but was not getting care and will not visit a hospital in fear of deportation.
“[The employer] gives him a lot of hours but very little pay, the employer didn’t want to help him because the employer said he was a private contractor,” said Morales. “If [the immigrants] get hurt on the job, they’re afraid to go to the employer because then the employer can fire them (without fear of breaking the law).”
Morales also noted though in the country illegally, the immigrants pay taxes, they contribute to the economy “I haven’t spoken to him specifically, but I think its all stuff Lundy would definitely get behind,” the aide said.