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Dayton mayor signs letter welcoming refugees

Dear President Obama:

We commend your decision to open America’s doors to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees displaced by civil war, and applaud your commitment to increase the overall number of refugees the U.S. will resettle over the course of the next two years. This announcement is a vital initial step to honoring America’s commitment to support those fleeing oppression.

As the mayors of cities across the country, we see first-hand the myriad ways in which immigrants and refugees make our communities stronger economically, socially and culturally. We will welcome the Syrian families to make homes and new lives in our cities. Indeed, we are writing to say that we stand ready to work with your Administration to do much more and to urge you to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept for resettlement. The surge of humanity fleeing war and famine is the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The United States is in a position to lead a global narrative of inclusion and support. This is a challenge we can meet, and the undersigned mayors stand ready to help you meet it.

Our cities have been transformed by the skills and the spirit of those who come to us from around the world. The drive and enterprise of immigrants and refugees have helped build our economies, enliven our arts and culture, and enrich our neighborhoods.

We have taken in refugees, and will help make room for thousands more. This is because the United States has developed a robust screening and background check that assures us that we know who we are welcoming into this country. With national security systems in place, we stand ready to support the Administration in increasing the numbers of refugees we can accept.

With Pope Francis’ visit, we are mindful of his call for greater compassion in the face of this ongoing crisis and stand with you in supporting those “journeying towards the hope of life.”

Sincerely,

Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown, Pa.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore, Md.

Martin J. Walsh, Mayor of Boston, Mass.

James Diossa, Mayor of Central Falls, R.I.

Mark Kleinschmidt, Mayor of Chapel Hill, N.C.

Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, Ill.

Edward Terry, Mayor of Clarkston, Ga.

Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton

Domenick Stampone, Mayor of Haledon, N.J.

Pedro E. Segarra, Mayor of Hartford, Ct.

Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, Calif.

Betsy Hodges, Mayor of Minneapolis, Minn.

Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, N.Y.

Jose Torres, Mayor of Paterson, N.J.

William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Javier Gonzales, Mayor of Santa Fe, N.M.

Francis G. Slay, Mayor of St. Louis, Mo.

Stephanie A. Miner, Mayor of Syracuse, N.Y.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley joined mayors from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and 14 other U.S. cities who said they were willing to take in even more refugees than proposed by the Obama Administration.

The letter was written Thursday.

“We will welcome the Syrian families to make homes and new lives in our cities,” wrote the mayors, all of whom are part of the Cities United for Immigration Action coalition. “Indeed, we are writing to say that we stand ready to work with your Administration to do much more and to urge you to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept for resettlement.”

“This is a challenge we can meet, and the undersigned mayors stand ready to help you meet it,” they wrote.

Thousands of Syrians and other refugees are fleeing to Europe, creating a crisis. Pope Francis told Congress on Thursday to seek a response that is “always humane, just and fraternal.”

Some Republicans have opposed the idea, citing security concerns and the potential to allow terrorists access to the country.

In July of 2014, Whaley had suggested to the federal government that Dayton could take immigrant children from Central America because of a refugee crisis then. U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican and former Dayton mayor, criticized Whaley then. That immigrant crisis passed without any of the children coming to Dayton.

On Friday, Turner criticized her latest stance.

“Mayor Whaley’s actions are outrageous and for the second time she has decided to speak on behalf of the Dayton area without authority and without considering the repercussions. She is well aware that she lacks the authority to take such unilateral action and should instead be focused on improving the City of Dayton,” Turner said in a written statement.

”While I am sympathetic to the plight of these refugees and supportive of U.S. involvement during this difficult time, I am adamantly opposed to Mayor Whaley’s call for the placement of these refugees in Dayton,” Turner said.

Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, said Turner took two nuns to hear the pope but apparently did not get the message.

“Today, Congressman Turner has gone back to fanning the flames of fear and hatred by blatantly mischaracterizing the refugee situation,” Owens said.

The full letter sent by the group of mayors to President Obama on Thursday read: