Ohio City to Paint Itself as Immigrant-Friendly

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

Ohio town to immigrants – come on down!

That's the message after officials gave unanimous approval to an Ohio city's "immigrant-friendly" plan aimed at bolstering a shrinking population.

Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell read a statement during Wednesday's city commission meeting saying the Welcome Dayton program is not about harboring undocumented immigrants or drawing them into the city. He says the focus instead is on treating all people kindly, fairly and humanely.

“Immigrants cross many lands and seas carrying on their shoulders the hopes and dreams of so many others left behind,” said Festus Nyiwo, an immigrant from Nigeria, according to The Dayton Daily News. 

“This great city of Dayton is called upon at this moment to act with a sense of diversity, prosperity and posterity.”

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The paper reports that the plan was approved by commissioners 4-0. Its backers have said it could lead to the creation of a new international marketplace and a new city identification card for residents who can't get a driver's license or a state ID.

Dayton Human Relations Council Director Tom Wahlrab says a next step is to set up a volunteer committee to help get the program going.

Three University of Dayton sociology professors spoke in favor of the plan, according to the Ohio paper. 

Jamie Longazel cited a study he did in 2005 on an immigration crackdown in Hazleton, Pa., saying the immigrants were just a convenient scapegoat.

He said Hazleton had the same vacant storefronts, decaying historic buildings and lack of manufacturing jobs that Dayton has, but the law drove away some Latino migrants who were boosting the economy.

“One reason the American Dream is still alive is that people keep coming to us who believe in it,” said UD professor Linda Majka. “Dayton has the opportunity to get this right.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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