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Ohio Mayors Weigh In on Immigration Reform

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Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (L) and Youngstown Mayor Jamael "Tito" Brown (R) both say federal leaders need to act on immigration reform. (Wikipedia)
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (L) and Youngstown Mayor Jamael "Tito" Brown (R) both say federal leaders need to act on immigration reform. (Wikipedia)
 By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH, Contact
January 26, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Immigration is a hot topic for the hundreds of mayors – including nine from Ohio – in Washington, D.C. this week for the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Congress faces a March 5 deadline to pass a permanent congressional solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. And earlier this week, the government shutdown ended after a pledge from Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to negotiate a DACA deal by Feb. 8.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley says she's heard from 'Dreamers' in her city who say they're scared about their future.

"Could you imagine getting up, and really, this decision by Congress is going to affect whether you can stay in your community – the only community you've really known your entire life – or have to move to a country you've never really been to since you were six or seven years old? That's what's going on, on this issue," says Whaley.

The White House will soon release its framework for immigration, which it says includes a permanent solution on DACA. And President Donald Trump has said he is open to a path to citizenship for some 800,000 immigrants brought to the US as children.

Also this week, the Justice Department announced a crackdown on so-called "sanctuary cities," prompting a group of mayors to boycott a scheduled meeting with the President. Youngstown Mayor Jamael “Tito” Brown contends the immigration system needs to be fixed so that immigrant communities are protected.

"I have a local business owner who was just recently detained and then, a judicial committee said, 'We'll release him.' But ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is still keeping him detained,” says Brown. “So this immigration thing, I can touch it and feel it in my community; so we're fighting it in Youngstown, Ohio, as well."

Brown sees immigrants as a vital part of local economies – participating as students, workers, taxpayers and business owners.

"We need to further that investment and we need to make it easier,” he says. “So if there are barriers we are putting in front of them now – some may not want to come because of the fear of being deported out of the darkness – we want to make it easier for them, and give them a pathway to becoming citizens of the United States of America."

Immigrants account for about 5 percent of all self-employed Ohioans. And according to federal estimates, there are about 95,000 undocumented immigrants living in the state.

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