Welcome Dayton is a community initiative that reflects our country’s core philosophy: people with diverse backgrounds, skills and experiences fuel our nation’s success. The Welcome Dayton effort promotes immigrant integration into the greater Dayton region by encouraging business and economic development; providing access to education, government, health and social services; ensuring equity in the justice system; and promoting an appreciation of arts and culture.
Government, non-profit, and business sectors engaged in a series of extensive community conversations regarding immigration in the region. As a result of the conversations, the Welcome Dayton Plan was created and the City of Dayton Commission unanimously adopted it in October of 2011. However, Welcome Dayton encourages commitments and engagement by the broader community, as opposed to being just another government-run program.
During its short life span, Welcome Dayton has a list of community-wide accomplishments. Highlights include increasing positive community police relations, building community through the arts, supporting English language learners through additional academic and family programming, increasing access to City of Dayton services for limited English proficient residents, changing perceptions of immigrants through positive media coverage, and building awareness of existing immigrant friendly services offered throughout the private and public sectors.
Some Key Developments in the Establishment and Growth of Welcome Dayton:
April 13, 2005 – Dayton City Commission votes unanimously (McLin, Lovelace, Zimmer and Joseph) to accept the Mexican and Guatemalan Matricula Consular (Consular Identification) for city business.
May 2008 – Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl put into place Executive Order No 12-2008 Physical Arrests of Traffic Violators, which specifies when arrests should or should not be made in the case of a person stopped who has no driver’s license. Chief Biehl noted that the number of deportations has greatly decreased, presumably as a result of this policy. (Source: Meeting Notes, Montgomery County Immigration Council, June 16, 2008 meeting)
September 2009 – Through August 2010, the Board of the Human Relations Council (HRC) initiates and carries out a Racial Equity Assessment of discrimination in housing within the city of Dayton against immigrants. The assessment finds evidence of discrimination.
June 17, 2010 – Then-Mayor Leitzell and City Manager Tim Riordan meet with leaders of the Ahiska Turkish Community, and discuss ways Dayton can assist in their resettlement and integration.
September 2010 – City Manager Tim Riordan, then-HRC Director Tom Wahlrab, Commissioner Joey Williams and Commissioner Matt Joseph discuss starting an Immigrant Friendly City initiative.
February 2011 – The City of Dayton creates a Core Team consisting of City staff from three Departments and one HRC board member. The Team writes an initial purpose statement and plan design, which will be used to inform local officials and citizens about the Immigrant Friendly City initiative and solicit their support and commitment.
February to April 2011 – The Core Team holds four open conversations with local people interested and or involved in immigrant issues. From the attendees, they ask for a commitment of 90 days to develop goals and objectives for a three-year plan. A “Mapping Strategy,” is developed and the volunteers self-select into four of the five committees: a) Social Services and Health Services; b) Local Government and Justice System; c) Business and Economic Development; and, d) Community Culture, Arts and Education. The Banks and Financial Institutions aspect of the mapping strategy was incorporated in the Business and Economic Development section.
June 22, 2011 – The committee completes final reports and presents them to the City Commission and City Manager
August 18, 2011 – A group of Core Team members, residents, a Downtown Dayton Partnership representative and City staff brainstorm options for a permanent name for the initiative. “Welcome Dayton – Immigrant Friendly City” was proposed and chosen, following review by additional constituents.The Welcome Dayton logo was designed with this same team of people and with the help of Erwin Sala of AARGH! creative advertisement, design & photography, from the Netherlands and Alvaro Maurice, CEO at Conquistador Consulting LLC.
October 5, 2011 – The City Commission votes unanimously to adopt the Welcome Dayton document (Leitzell, Lovelace, Joseph and Whaley).
February 2012 – The US Department of Housing and Urban Development awards a grant to the City to fund Welcome Dayton efforts.
August 15, 2012 – Dayton becomes an informal partner of Welcoming America.
Sept 21-22, 2012 – First Dayton World Soccer Games are held.
March 12, 2013 – Dayton joins the Welcoming Cities and Counties Network.
May 13, 2013 – Welcome Dayton Committee members appointed.
June 14, 2013 – The first Welcome Dayton Committee meeting is held.
June 2013 – Dayton joins the Global Great Lakes Network.
June 2013 – The City of Dayton is awarded an “Outstanding Achievement” award in recognition of the Welcome Dayton initiative during the U.S. Conference of Mayors 81st Annual Meeting.
September 19, 2013 – The White House honored former Human Relations Council Executive Director, Tom Wahlrab, as a Champion of Change for his working helping immigrants integrate linguistically and socially into the community.
September 2013 – US Chamber of Commerce recognizes Dayton as one of seven most enterprising cities in the US as a result of the Welcome Dayton initiative.
May 1, 2014 – As part of her City of Learners listening sessions to hear community needs and feedback regarding local education, Mayor Nan Whaley visits the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center for a special session with immigrant parents.
December 2014 – Following President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, Mayor Nan Whaley visits Washington, D.C. to join 20 mayors from across the U.S. who were all part of the mayors’ steering committee of the Cities United for Immigration Reform to voice her support for congressional action and bipartisan reform on immigration.
January 2015 – Dayton’s City Manager adopts a new organizational Language Access Policy to reduce language barriers to City services for all Dayton residents.
April 2015 – The White House Task Force on New Americans releases its Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Integration, citing Dayton as a best practice for the work being done in Dayton Public Schools.
July 7-9, 2015 – Dayton hosts the third annual convening of the Welcoming Economies Global Network. The conference included keynote speaker Felicia Escobar, Special Assistant to the President for Immigration Policy.
September 2015 – The White House launches its Welcoming Communities campaign to better connect federal resources with local immigrant-friendly initiatives. Dayton was one of 40 early adopter communities.
September 25, 2015 – Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley joins other mayors from across the country to sign a joint letter from Cities United for Immigration Action to the Obama Administration expressing their willingness to assist in the relocation process during the Syrian refugee crisis.
(updated December 22, 2015)