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Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 @ 10:51 PM
Updated: Thursday, July 17, 2014 @ 10:51 PM
DAYTON — Mayor Nan Whaley's comments about immigration prompted a small group of protesters waving American flags and signs denouncing undocumented immigration from Mexico to gather Thursday night outside a building where she was meeting with residents about community issues.
The protesters, many of whom were from Cincinnati, said Whaley has signaled Dayton's willingness to accept some of the undocumented immigrant children who have arrived at the southern U.S. border from Central America. They said they wanted to send a clear message to political leadership that they will not tolerate the welcoming of illegal immigrants into the community.
"They don't have the right," said Zee Zembry, an Arizona resident who is helping a sick relative in Tipp City. "We don't want illegals in Dayton, Ohio."
Whaley said it was sad that people who do not live in Dayton tried to hijack a community meeting to complain about needy children. She said if the children, whom she describes as refugees, need to be distributed across the nation, Dayton would certainly do its part and provide a safe landing spot.
"Of course we would consider being helpful to the country, because we're an immigrant-friendly community," she said.
Whaley was hosting the second of 14 community meetings planned for across the city, which have been billed as a way to promote neighborhood strengths and connect residents with services. About 50 people attended the meeting, where updates were provided on the Dayton Metro Library expansion and the county auditor's revaluation of properties across the city.
The topic turned to illegal immigration when Ron Ungerer, a 63-year-old Xenia resident, stood and addressed the mayor. Ungerer said he wants to know why Mayor Whaley has told some media outlets that she would support accepting some the undocumented children.
"The mayor is on record as having said she wants to bring illegals into the community," he said. "This will be a very destructive thing for our neighborhoods ... where will they put them?"
Though he lives in Xenia, Ungerer said what happens in Dayton impacts the entire region, including the surrounding communities. He is demanding Whaley recant all statements of support of providing facilities for the illegal immigrants.
The mayor said Dayton, along with many other U.S. cities, has been in communication with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the immigrant children at the southern borders. The department, she said, has tried to identify cities that have facilities that could accept and accommodate some of the thousands of child refugees.
Whaley said Dayton would likely be a destination for some of the children. But she noted there is no news on the fate of the immigrant children and Congress would have to take action to finance their placement in communities nationwide.
"We are an open community, and we are open to immigrants," she said. "The anger about something that hasn't even happened, and the fact that Congress hasn't even acted, makes this all very strange to me."
Outside the meeting place, some protesters and attendees became embroiled in a heated argument, where they traded sharp words. One visitor said the protesters had no right to disrupt a neighborhood meeting that had nothing to do with immigration issues.
But some protesters said they do not know whether Whaley was discussing any of her plans for the immigrant children.