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Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez
17 Dec 2014
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The American Dream Lives in Dayton

Comment
Amid all the recent efforts to subjugate undocumented immigrants -- the Obama administration breaking deportation records, the states passing draconian and unconstitutional laws and the Republican presidential candidates using immigrants as guinea pigs to score cheap political points -- the light at the end of the tunnel is coming from Dayton, Ohio.

While other cities and states are driving immigrants out, Dayton is posting a "Welcome!" sign that deserves the admiration and support of all who still believe in the American dream.

In the midst of all the extremist politicians competing to see who can become the greatest immigrant basher, the Dayton city commission unanimously passed an "immigrant-friendly" plan aimed at bolstering the city's shrinking population.

"This is not about harboring illegal immigrants or drawing illegal immigrants into Dayton," said Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell. "We understand there are problems with people entering the U.S. illegally. The Welcome Dayton plan leaves federal immigration law enforcement to the feds, and instead focuses on making our community one that treats all people kindly, fairly and humanely."

In other parts of the country, where ethnic bigotry now is openly promoted, we see barriers constantly erected in immigrants' path. But Dayton has embraced cultural and ethnic diversity, and they plan to make it easier for all immigrants to thrive.

The plan is to help immigrants -- legal or illegal -- establish themselves in the community, attend English classes and open new businesses. There is talk of creating an international marketplace and getting immigrants more involved in community organizations and activities.

"When folks come, we'd like to welcome them. We'd like to let them know what their resources are to learn English," said Human Relations Council Director Tom Wahlrab.
"We want to let them know they have a part in our community."

In a country where the volume of hate-rhetoric against immigrants has become deafening, these words are very refreshing and the effort is commendable!

But why are Dayton city officials doing this? Because the city lost many manufacturing jobs and almost 25,000 residents from 2000 to 2010. Also, because city organizers recognize that Dayton needs a vibrant immigrant community to start new businesses, fill their vacant storefronts and rebuild their decaying buildings. This is a cycle we have seen happen all over the country and throughout American history.

And why do Dayton officials believe this can happen again in their city? Because the immigrants already there are the ones still buying houses, fixing their properties and rebuilding the town!

In states like Georgia and Alabama, where the persecution of illegal immigrants is driving thousands to move to other states, farm owners are complaining that they have lost their workforce, that their crops are rotting and that they could lose their farms because they can't find American citizens to work the fields. But in cities like Dayton, where the American dream is still alive, officials are counting on immigrants to revitalize their city. What contrast!

If history is any indicator of what's to come, then we can expect Georgia and Alabama's loss to become Dayton's gain. According to Google Maps, it takes less than 9 hours to drive from Birmingham, Ala., or from Atlanta, Ga., to Dayton. It's a straight shot north through Tennessee and Kentucky, and it's not just illegal immigrants who may be going for that long drive.

Now there are reports that even legal immigrants are fleeing from hostile states. Many legal immigrants and even U.S. born Latinos are now asking themselves why they should stay in a state where they are likely to be racially profiled and unjustifiably harassed by authorities. They are looking to relocate their wealth and their potential to cities like Dayton, where the American dream still can be realized.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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