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Immigration Helps To Revitalize Deserted Rust Belt Cities

Dayton_seal.jpgAs the nation gears up for yet another round of heated debate about the future of immigration and immigrants in the country, Midwestern cities are discovering the benefits of attracting immigrants. An example of this trend is Dayton, Ohio, located in the heart of the rust belt. Once a bustling town which saw its fortunes in manufacturing, the city has lately been reduce to a shadow of its former self as residents fled looking for work. Recently the Dayton City Commission voted to make the city an “immigrant friendly” location, which was meant to help attract immigrants to the city and help turn around its stalled progress.

Dayton is seeing a revitalization of sorts, after having attracted over 400 families from Turkish descent. But Dayton is not alone. Cities including Cleveland, Chicago, and even Detroit, which is currently facing bankruptcy, are looking to immigrants to help repopulate their neighborhoods and revitalize their communities. This movement by American cities follows a shift in opinion that Americans have about immigrants, even those in the country without legal documents. Increasingly Americans feel that immigrants contribute positively to the economy.

The results of the slow, but steady, change in American attitudes towards immigrants has the potential to change the way the country does business. For example, in the case of Dayton, the city has rolled out the welcome mat to refugees. Before the push to attract Turkish immigrants, which began in 2010, Dayton was already home to over 10,000 foreign born residents, including refugees from such countries as Burundi and Somalia. Many of the city’s new Turkish residents are also refugees, having fled countries which previously constituted the Soviet Union, such as Russia.

A particularly important event in Dayton’s becoming an immigrant friendly location came during a 2011 town hall meeting where residents were asked to discuss how they felt about the city becoming more welcoming of immigrants. Reportedly the only serious objections came from non-Dayton residents, protesters who came to the meeting from other Ohio cities to voice their concern.

Dayton’s immigrant friendly status was no simple label. The city worked with immigrants to help them learn how to open small businesses. They even helped immigrant students enroll in college, and immigrant professionals, such as doctors and engineers, get the proper licensing in order to be able to operate legally. Though neighboring municipalities voiced discontent, Dayton’s police chief directed police officers to stop checking immigration statuses of people who were witnesses of crime, or who were stopped for traffic and other minor violations. The total economic impact of Dayton’s openness to immigrants has reportedly reached $30 million, according to leaders in the Turkish community.

As an Austin immigration attorney, I recognize the benefits immigrants bring to our communities and our culture. American culture was based on immigration, and in many ways, still is.

Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC is an Austin based firm specializing in immigration and family law. If you would like to discuss a legal matter please call us at (512) 215-5225.