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Promoting Immigrant and Human Rights at the Local Level: A Case Study of the Welcome Dayton Initiative (abstract)
The Social Practice of Human Rights: Charting the Frontiers of Research and Advocacy
  • Theo J. Majka, University of Dayton
  • Jamie Longazel, University of Dayton
University of Dayton
Start Date
10-2-2015 10:30 AM
End Date
10-2-2015 12:00 PM
Hazelton, Pennsylvania and Dayton, Ohio represent contrasting examples of community reactions to increases in immigrants. Both cities have experienced de-manufacturing in recent decades. In reaction to an influx of Latinos, Hazelton enacted the 2006 Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA) which placed severe restrictions on the rights of undocumenteds. In contrast, the Dayton City Commission passed the Welcome Dayton: Immigrant-Friendly City initiative in 2011 with the goal of facilitating the integration of immigrant residents. Hazelton’s developers used tax incentives to establish warehouses, distribution centers, and a meatpacking plant, resulting in a significant demographic change. However, in adopting a neoliberal approach, the developers failed to provide support for emerging Latina/o-owned small businesses. The results have implications for economic justice and the protection of the rights of immigrant laborers. Also, Hazelton illustrates the limitations of legal challenges to restrictive legislation. Although the law was challenged and subsequently ruled unconstitutional, a local White-Latina/o organization attempting to 'build a bridge' between recent immigrants and local residents/institutions has been constrained from raising issues like race and immigrant rights. Consequently, the dominant narrative goes unchallenged and core factors — racial and economic inequality — remain in place. In contrast, the Welcome Dayton initiative was resulted from ongoing efforts by numerous local organizations, including those of immigrants and refugees themselves, to assist recent immigrants and protect their rights. When the City’s Human Relations Council initiated community conversations on immigrant issues, there were many participants with experience to guide the writing of a comprehensive report with extensive recommendations for institutional change. Once begun, Welcome Dayton’s initiatives have partnered with local organizations. Whether intentional or not, Dayton and cities with similar initiatives are acting in accord with the U.N.’s 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, especially the articles specifying equal access to educational, vocational and social services and equality of living and working conditions and employment contracts. These two cases reflect the contrast between citizen rights, which often stress individual rights and sometimes pit groups against each other, and human rights based on principles of social justice and the well-being of the human person.

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Citation Information
Theo J. Majka and Jamie Longazel. "Promoting Immigrant and Human Rights at the Local Level: A Case Study of the Welcome Dayton Initiative (abstract)" (2015)
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