Photo by Ambrosia Luzius

The panel at Cleveland State’s Drinko Hall discussed U.S. immigration, by focusing on the film “Fresh Start:Refugees in America Past and Present.”


April 18, 2017

Humanities Festival hosts immigration panel

A film about refugees living in New Hampshire created by a Cleveland State professor served to focus a panel discussion March 20 as part of the 2017 Cleveland Humanities Festival organized by Case Western Reserve University.

Professor Cidgem Slankard’s film, “Fresh Start: Refugees in American Past & Present,” examined the lives of refugees in the Granite State as an example of the lives of refugees nationally. She said her film describes how a property owner leased the land to immigrant workers for a minimal fee until they were able to raise $24,000 to purchase the property.

Slankard an assistant professor and filmmaker who focuses on social issues, said she chose this group because it’s story helps paint a picture of immigration countrywide as people come to the United States bringing farming as their only marketable skill.

Those portrayed in the film spoke of their home countries, war, and their lives in America. Slankard said while making the film she asked everyone she talked to about their biggest struggles and everyone without expression told her, “me happy.”

Throughout the panel discussion the speakers all recalled receiving a sense of resilience, gratitude and strength in the refugees they met, which the speakers all stressed as their most important observation and one they want viewers to recall afterward. According to Slankard, the United States provides a one-way plane ticket to refugees that they must pay the government for within three or four months after arriving in America.

Religious and social groups usually pay these fees, according to the panel. In Cleveland, there are two main groups that help support refugee integration – Global Cleveland and US Together. The panel discussed how immigration has supported Cleveland’s economic rebound. The Columbus Dispatch reported Ohio immigration brought $4.4 billion to the government in local, state and federal taxes in 2014.

The Cleveland Humanities Festival explored immigration with a wide variety of events throughout the area.


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