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Cleveland Welcomes Republicans, And Refugees09:42

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Mohammed, a Syrian refugee, at Shaker Hair & Beauty Supply in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where he works. (Jill Ryan/Here & Now)closemore
Mohammed, a Syrian refugee, at Shaker Hair & Beauty Supply in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where he works. (Jill Ryan/Here & Now)

Cleveland has welcomed Republicans this week, and it also has a history of embracing refugees. More than 800 come to Cleveland each year, and according to a study, those who settle here get jobs more quickly than others on average across the US.

Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Mohammed, a refugee who came from Syria and does not want his last name used because he has family back home. Young also speaks with Danielle Drake, a community relations manager for Us Together, a refugee resettlement agency in Ohio.

Hear more of Here & Now's coverage from the Republican National Convention.

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Interview Highlights: Mohammed and Danielle Drake

Mohammed is a Muslim Syrian refugee. He came to Cleveland in March. He still has family there and doesn't want us to use his full name. In Syria, he worked in a legal office, and was training to be a lawyer when the office closed because of the violence.

Mohammed

On how he got to Cleveland:

“When I lost my job, I sat in the house for a while, and there began to be more violence in the area. So the Syrian army came to the neighborhood that we lived in. We weren't able to go outside because of the resistance people that were there. After there were bombings in our area, people from outside came to our neighborhood. So I went to Jordan and requested to be a refugee there. I was in Jordan for four years, and then was accepted as a refugee, and then I was brought to America. Thank God I was here. I'm able to have a job, and able to express my opinion freely without not have any problems. Here, in America, I feel like I'm a human.”

"Of course, I love the American people, and I hope that Donald Trump, Mr. Donald Trump would not end up leading this country, a country where people love democracy and freedom, and I prefer Hillary Clinton to be the leader."

Mohammed

On his thoughts about presidential candidate Donald Trump:

"Of course, I love the American people, and I hope that Donald Trump, Mr. Donald Trump would not end up leading this country, a country where people love democracy and freedom, and I prefer Hillary Clinton to be the leader."

On what he would say to people who want to ban Muslim immigrants:

"So the idea of extremism or terrorism is not within the scope of Islam. ISIS is against Islam. They are not Muslims. All the people in Syria hate ISIS. They're killing a lot of people in Syria, so the Syrian people really don't like ISIS."

On watching American democracy at play during the convention:

"It's great that Americans can express their opinion and if they were afraid they wouldn't be able to express those opinions. If I were restricted from expressing my opinion, I wouldn't be able to do this interview right now. So it's great to have that freedom in America."

On his future goals:

"So when I first heard that I was accepted as a refugee, my first thought was that I want to finish my studies, which is International Law."

On his plans to become a U.S. citizen:

"Yes, I want to be an American citizen, and I will be an American citizen. I'm treating this land like it's mine. I want to be a participating citizen in the future. I feel very sad, of course, like anyone would leaving my country. I hope that the war could end today, but it seems like it's going to continue. I feel sad about that, but at the same time I'm very happy and comfortable here, and thankful."

Danielle Drake

On Mohammed’s story:

"His story is very similar to what I see every day. We resettle refugees that have PhDs, that were doctors, that were lawyers that work as sales clerks. They drive trucks, and they are not maybe not happy that they have to lose all of that education or that it doesn't transfer, but they're willing to take any job. I have one Iraqi refugee client. He and his wife both had PhDs. His English was not at that level that he could teach at a university when he first arrived, but he worked on his English. He practiced. He drove a truck for two years, and now he's teaching Arabic classes at a local university."

On refugees in Cleveland:

"The refugees here do a lot better. They're employed quicker, usually within five months, way above the national average, and I think it speaks a lot to how welcoming our city is."

On the contrast between them and much of the country’s electorate:

"This is the land of immigrants, so clearly I think immigrants are not a burden. They built this country with their blood, sweat and tears. So I think that anyone that says that immigrants and refugees are a burden has never really truly spent time with an immigrant or a refugee, and does not see what they're doing to make this country better."

On immigrants’ economic impact in Cleveland:

"We did an economic study in 2012 and found that our return on investment on refugee resettlement is 10:1. So for every single dollar that my agency or another agency spends on refugees, they're putting $10 back into the local economy by paying taxes, working, buying houses, buying cars and starting small businesses."

On what she would say to people who are afraid of Muslim refugees:

"I think that the truth is the best thing to educate people with. Refugees go through a 13 point security and background screening. Refugees from the Middle East go through additional security screenings that refugees from other countries maybe don't have to go through. So if someone is looking to harm our country, they're not coming through the U.S. refugee admissions program. Some people wait 18 to 20 years to get into this country as a refugee."

Guests

Mohammed, a Syrian refugee living in Cleveland.

Danielle Drake, a community relations manager for the agency Us Together, a refugee resettlement agency with offices across Ohio.

Photos Of Mohammed's Workplace

The exterior of Shaker Hair & Beauty Supply in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. (Robin Young/Here & Now)
The exterior of Shaker Hair & Beauty Supply in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. (Robin Young/Here & Now)
Mohammed (right), a Syrian refugee, behind the counter at Shaker Hair & Beauty Supply in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where he works. (Robin Young/Here & Now)
Mohammed (right), a Syrian refugee, behind the counter at Shaker Hair & Beauty Supply in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where he works. (Robin Young/Here & Now)

This segment aired on July 20, 2016.

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