There’s no wall at the Ohio border, only an open door. At a time when the word “immigration” has become a starting point for endless debate and posturing, Ohio welcomes immigrants. It doesn’t matter if you come from Michigan or Montana – or from India or Ecuador – you are always welcome here.
I know it might strike some as strange to say “welcome” to new arrivals at a time when immigrants aren’t always finding open doors. But Ohio’s never done things like everyone else and we’re proud to stand apart on this. We have a history of working to stay a step ahead. And, for us, immigration has always been part of moving forward and staying on the cutting edge.
After all, Ohio was America’s first frontier. So it’s second nature for us to identify with and celebrate the many waves of immigrants that came here for freedom and opportunity: Germans in Cincinnati and central Ohio, Eastern Europeans, Latinos and Irish in Northeast Ohio, Italians in Eastern Ohio, people from the Middle East in Northwest Ohio to name just a few.
Today, new waves of immigrants are finding their homes here, coming into the same cities and towns enriched by the earlier generations. People from East Africa, the Himalayas, Latin America and other places continue to become proud Buckeyes and weave their stories into the broader, historic Ohio narrative. It’s a proud history of the ways hard work, ingenuity and creativity have become hallmarks of our success, both past and future.
Recognizing the need to maintain Ohio’s traditional open door for new arrivals, I recently signed an executive order creating the New Americans Advisory Committee to help advise a new Office of Opportunities for New Americans. This will help us focus on making sure these new Ohioans are job ready by working closely with immigrant support groups to tear down barriers that prevent integration and economic success.
For a state that’s seen a half-million new jobs created since 2011, we know we have opportunities to share, witnessed by the 150,000 well-paying job openings listed each month on our OhioMeansJobs.com website.
Like so many Americans of my generation, I know what immigration means. As a grandchild of Croatian and Czech immigrants, I was raised in a Pennsylvania steel town where most of my neighbors had similar stories. The varied nature of our backgrounds gave our community strength and vibrancy. It was part and parcel of that classic immigrant drive to get ahead that helped make Pittsburgh’s steel industry an engine of American prosperity.
But today, our memory of America’s immigrant past no longer enjoys this same celebrated status. The negative voices on some sides of the immigration debate should alarm anyone who understands the benefits and blessings of immigration. That negativity misunderstands our country’s past and ignores the importance of our connections to the rest of the world. As a result, it throws up a barrier to future economic growth and blocks us from understanding – and addressing – the real causes of challenges that face certain parts of our country or specific industries.
When Americans affirm our immigrant heritage going forward, we prepare ourselves for the ongoing success that comes from the power and innovations that can flow from new ideas and new people. We thrive on both in Ohio. Our state was built by immigrants, and because we want to continue building, we’ll need new people from everywhere – including from outside the United States.
The door is open to Ohio. Come in and join us! We welcome new neighbors who work hard, contribute to their communities, raise their families and are ready to join in the great Ohio Story.
John R. Kasich has served as Ohio governor since January 2011, helping Ohio close an $8 billion budget shortfall and restore its fiscal stability.