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Group says Ohio will be at forefront of debate

Group says Ohio will be at forefront of debate
Elections to feature immigration reform

The following article, written by Lauren Lindstrom, appeared July 24, 2015 in The Toledo Blade. ABLE Senior Attorney Mark Heller is quoted in the article. Read below, or view on The Blade's website.

Ohio is "ground zero" for immigration reform, in part because of its position on the northern border and historic importance in national elections, according to a report issued by a pro-immigration advocacy group released Thursday.

Ohio's Voice, the state chapter of America's Voice, released the report outlining the group's assertion that the state will play a major role in the immigration debate and the 2016 presidential election.

Lynn Tramonte — director of Ohio's Voice and the report's author — calls the state "a microcosm of the national immigration debate," citing stories in several national media outlets about immigrants in Ohio, including stories about an ongoing federal trial in Toledo in which law enforcement agencies are accused of profiling Latinos.

In a Thursday conference call with reporters, several panelists involved with immigration issues in Ohio offered why they believe the state will play a role in the national debate.

Mark Heller, senior attorney for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Toledo, spoke about the trial in which ABLE has accused U.S. Customs and Border Protection of profiling Latinos for stops by agents at the station in Port Clinton.

"Clearly the current system as it's playing out in Ohio, it's out of control," he said, in reference to the lawsuit's claims that border patrol agents used ethnic slurs and lacked reasonable suspicion and probable cause for stops and searches of Latinos. "We think we have a serious problem."

Ohio's political prominence also plays a role, Ms. Tramonte said in the report, referring to Gov. John Kasich, who this week formally announced his presidential candidacy.

The report cited a decision by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to join a multistate lawsuit blocking the implementation of President Obama's executive order to expand deferred action programs that seek to shield up to 5 million people from deportation.

Veronica Dahlberg, executive director of the grass-roots group HOLA Ohio, who also participated in the call, said voters, especially Latinos, will look for candidates' positions on immigration reform.

"All indications show the Latino vote will be more important than in 2012 for whoever wants to win the White House," she said.

Looking forward to 2016, the panelists offered what they would like to hear from candidates about immigration. Ms. Dahlberg said each candidate needs to clearly tell voters whether he or she would roll back the executive orders Mr. Obama issued.

Jessica Pantaleon Camacho, an Ohio resident and a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said she would like candidates to listen to immigrant families' stories before making policy decisions.

"I would like to see that they understand where we are coming from," Ms. Camacho said. "If they could put a face to a story, they would be more inclined to make policy changes."