December 22, 2012 (NPR) – In 2011, the city of Dayton launched Welcome Dayton, a planned strategy that was created to ease immigrants into American life. The City Manager Tim Riordan says the strategy was 1) the right thing to do, and 2) he said immigrants were needed to help restore the battered city's economy.
"I saw immigrants doing things in the neighborhoods," Riordan says. "They were buying really inexpensive houses and fixing them up. I heard stories from hardware owners where the immigrants would come and buy one window at a time to fix up their house as they got money."
Riordan is an avid supporter of immigration in Ohio, and he says that changing Dayton's culture is an investment in the city. He brought up how one section of the city is now designated as an immigrant business zone; police are only allowed to check on immigration statuses when they suspect a serious crime has taken place.
Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program says that what's good about the Dayton program is the way that leaders in those communities talk about immigrants as a positive force and contributing.
A Brookings study revealed that immigrants were 30% more likely to form a new business than a U.S. born citizen, which is good news for Dayton, whose population has been declining since the 1970's and unemployment rate is 8.3% as of September of 2012 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
City Manager Riordan emphasizes that immigrant is not synonymous with illegal. He says the good people of Dayton didn't have that kind of attitude and he said that it was the people outside of Wyoming and Montana that were telling the city what to do, and Riordan's attitude was, "Eh, that's not your business." Riordan said the real thrust of the plan focuses on legal immigrants.
Cities such as Tucson, Arizona, and Salt Lake City, Utah are following in Dayton's footsteps, making it official policy to welcome immigrants and to help them feel at home in their neck of the woods.
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