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New Study Shines Light On The Services Lacking For Immigrants In Ohio

Ohio Pathway to a Brighter Future
Education, legal services and health care are lacking for immigrants in Ohio according to a new report.

A new report on Ohio immigrants finds a lack of adequate access to educational opportunities, trustworthy and affordable legal services and accessible and affordable healthcare.

"Our Pathway to a Brighter Future" is the result of 18 months of research by the Health Landscape of Cincinnati and others, and was designed to figure out what the immigration population looks like in Ohio and what services are lacking.

The Problems

Immigration attorney Allison Herre of Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio worked on the report and is disturbed that there are fewer than 35 immigration attorneys in the entire state that are pro-bono or low-bono. "It really opens up the door for fraud in this area," she says. "Immigrants are very susceptible, being scammed by non-immigration attorneys trying to just get money from them and telling them they can do things that they can't really do."

Another area of concern is reliable and affordable healthcare. The report says 25 percent of foreign-born non-citizens are uninsured when compared to foreign-born naturalized at 6.5 percent and native born at 5.2 percent.

From the report:

"A 2015 analysis by the University of California Global Health Institute ranked Ohio last in the nation in the support of policies that affect the health of the undocumented. Ohio is among a handful of states that does not provide public health insurance to undocumented children and pregnant women. Ohio also excludes undocumented individuals from the calculation of eligibility for SNAP benefits."

In addition, Herre says immigrants need more English classes and GED classes in Spanish. Just 39 percent speak English well. The report says:

“Given the fact that the majority of labor-force growth in the United States over the next four decades is projected to come from immigrants and their children, investing in these two populations is critical to the success of not only these families but also the U.S. [and Ohio] economy.”Thus, one of the most important things Ohio can do is develop and deploy a robust supportive service network to expedite our newest immigrants’ acculturation. A larger and more committed effort around this immigrant engagement and support should focus on those most in need: our newest immigrant populations and those who speak English the least well."

The report says only a fraction of Ohio counties have ESOL services (English for Speakers of Other Languages). They are concentrated in Franklin County, with a smattering of services in Hamilton and Montgomery counties.

The  Population

Immigrants make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population but just 4.4 percent in Ohio. The breakdown in Ohio's major cities is as follows:

  • Cincinnati 4.5%
  • Columbus 7.6%
  • Cleveland 5.9%

There are 83,000 undocumented immigrants in Ohio. Ten-thousand of them are in Hamilton County. DACA recipients number 4,000 in Ohio.
Herre says the goal of the report is to bring attention to services needed. "So that we can use these reports to find funding for our services and expand services into areas that are in most need for the immigrant population," she says.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.