A desire to be welcoming

Every year the Mid-Ohio Valley Friends (Quakers) engage people at the Multi-Cultural Festival in discussion about important issues. This year we focused on immigration and wish to report on what we heard from around 150 MOV residents.

We asked festival-goers where their ancestors came from. While the British Isles and Northern Europe were the most common, (Ireland, 48; Germany, 43; Scotland, 26; England, 22; Wales, 10; with France, Poland, and Italy next). We found that people living in the Mid-Ohio Valley claim roots all over the world – from Syria, Romania, Jamaica, Senegal, Gambia, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, India, Canada, Hungary, Russia, Greece, Japan, Lithuania, China, Slovakia, Armenia, Portugal, Sweden, Bahamas, Spain, and Iran. People also claimed Native American ancestry, including Cherokee (most named), Iroquois, Shawnee, Sioux, Cheyenne, and Cree.

We presented three cases of people here illegally, asking people to imagine themselves as, 1, an English tourist who had overstayed his visa; 2, a teenager brought here as a young child or; 3, a Central American couple fleeing poverty and violence who crossed the border illegally as adults and had children born in this country. For each case we asked “What should be done about you?” and proposed three possible actions: deportation; paying a fine with no chance of becoming a citizen; or paying a fine permitting application for citizenship.

We learned that MOV people want to allow people pathways to citizenship. People were hardest on the tourist; 10 percent thought the tourist should be deported, with only 4 percent wanting either the teenager or the adult couple to be deported. Eight percent wanted the tourist fined, but no citizenship, while only one person wanted that fate for the teenager, and three people for the couple. In each case, sentiments overwhelmingly favored a path to citizenship – 82 percent for the tourist, 94 percent for the teenager, and 90 percent for the couple. Many people stated they did not want any fines. One idea proposed providing young people with the opportunity to serve in the military or go to college as a condition of citizenship. When asked if current immigration policies need to be changed, almost all said yes. In dissent, two people wanted existing laws enforced.

While the Mid-Ohio Valley cannot claim the diversity of some areas of the country, it was clear from our survey that as a community we have the desire to be open and welcoming to people from all over the world.

Jean Ambrose