Lauren Powers


Immigration has long been a controversial topic in American history. New immigrants in the United States have often been met with a sense of reticence versus the open arms that people find in modern-day Canada.

The United States, however, is no stranger to large populations entering at once. In the 1800’s, there was a large influx of Irish immigrants fleeing the deadly potato famine. In the late 1800’s, a large number of Italian immigrants came to work as unskilled workers. In the early 1900’s, over a million Mexicans came to the United States when they were fleeing the Mexican Revolution. Various issues around the world have caused people to flee to the United States from Cuba to Haiti, El Salvador to Kosovo, Germany to Somalia.

In Columbus, we are home to over 55,000 Somali immigrants, the 2nd largest population of Somalis in the United States. We also are one of the top 5 destinations for Bhutanese refugees.

Though sometimes used interchangeably in current conversations, a refugee, an immigrant, and an “illegal immigrant” are quite different. A refugee, as defined by the United Nations, is someone who is fleeing conflict or persecution. In the United States alone there are over 20 million refugees. Worldwide, there are over 65 million refugees.

An immigrant would be anyone moving to the United States with the intention of living here. With our family-based immigration system, there is an emphasis on family-reunification so people often come to the United States based on family relations versus the skills or education-based points system that Canada uses. The United States operates  with an emphasis on family-reunification, while Canada assigns points based on job skills, education, and language proficiency.

An “illegal immigrant” more commonly referred to as an “undocumented immigrant” is anyone who is living in the United States without permission – some people overstayed their visa, they entered without inspection, or they used a false document to enter. Desperate to escape the conditions of the home country, many of these people come from countries that do not allow them to be recognized as refugees by the United Nations, but they’re escaping many similar situations of violence and/or dire financial struggles in their home countries.

The United States has quite a rigorous process for the acceptance of refugees with an 18-month screening process. For each individual coming to the US, a rigorous vetting process occurs with a thorough review by federal agencies, background checks, in person interviews, health screenings, and cultural orientation. This year, the United States plans to allow 50,000 refugees to enter.

For many, the discussion of refugees and the hesitation about allowing them to enter comes down to safety concerns and the feeling that they will burden the economy. Recent studies, however, have found the opposite to occur. Though countries do incur a large upfront cost, it can be best viewed as an investment. Refugees often out-earn non-refugee immigrants and they add more value than the cost of receiving and resettling them.

In Columbus, we have resettled more than 17,000 refugees from around the world. In addition to refugees from Somalia and Bhutan, refugees also come from places such as Iraq, Burma, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

In Franklin County, studies have found that refugees are just about as likely as Franklin County natives to attend college. They are also entrepreneurial. There are more than 900 refugee-owned businesses in Central Ohio and those businesses employ more than 4,000 workers.

For a closer look at refugees in Ohio, you may want to see Bhutanese Nepali Neighbors: Photographs by Tariq Tarey at the Ohio History Center.

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Many of us are born with the travel bug, but for any number of reasons, we aren’t able to travel as much as we would like to. Here are three small towns within an hour of Columbus that are the perfect change of pace from Columbus.

Yellow Springs

Yellow Springs, Ohio is a small town located about an hour from Columbus and about 15 minutes from Dayton. Known for its hippie-vibes and outdoor attractions, Yellow Springs is a unique stop in the farmland of Ohio. Previously home to an important stop on the Little Miami Railroad and once home to various health resorts and spas focused on the hot springs, the Yellow Springs of 2017 is quite different. The railroad is long gone and the health resorts have disappeared, but Yellow Springs has gained a reputation for being a nature and arts destination in Ohio.

EATSunrise Cafe – a small, casual restaurant with an exceptional made-to-order menu. With an emphasis on natural food, they offer lots of vegetarian options as well as organic, vegan, and responsibly sourced ingredients. They are open for all 3 meals of the day, but close middays.

SEEGlen Helen Nature Preserve is the main outdoor destination in Yellow Springs. The main entrance and parking lot is just a couple minutes from downtown. Depending on the trail you take, the hike can be easy and mostly flat or could involve a large set of stairs down to the trails. In addition to nature, you’ll want to see the art. Yellow Springs Pottery is a pottery cooperative that has been around since 1973. You can see and purchase handmade pieces ranging from mugs to wall decor to larger pieces from the 10 members.

STAYMills Park Hotel is a Southern-inspired hotel on the main street that opened in 2016. They have beautiful guest rooms, a quaint gift shop and some darling rocking chairs on the front porch. Ellie’s, their public restaurant, currently serves all three meals and they have a coffee bar/bakery. Enjoy breakfast under the covered porch at a table or savor a latte in their famous, front porch rocking chairs.



Chillicothe has certainly had its’ share of bad press in the last few years, but it’s a town not to be overlooked with its major historical significance and modern-day attractions. Just over an hour south of Columbus, Chillicothe was once the capital of Ohio. Though the name Chillicothe comes from Shawnee tradition, the town was also important to the Hopewell tradition. Following the American Revolution, many Europeans settled in the area and it became the first capital of Ohio from 1803-1810. Chillicothe was also an important part of the Underground Railroad during the US Civil War. Current day Chillicothe is full of things to see.



EAT – Grab an afternoon treat at Rost Coffee. They started in Columbus a few years ago at Easton Town Center, but they moved into a much better fitting space that can show off their personality. With simple white walls and wood floors, it’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon. You’ll want to try the iced mocha – a perfect mix of sweet and coffee.

SEE – You’ll find several small shops right near Rost Coffee such as Totem Supply Co and other unique-to-Chillicothe places. Spend some time just walking around the downtown area to admire the architecture like the theatre, the Ross County Courthouse, and other buildings from Chillicothe’s time as the capital city of Ohio.


Granville (Ohio). – Located just under 45 minutes from downtown Columbus is a small, New-England-style town full of charm. Home to Denison University, the town remains lively and active, but it still has historical feel.

EATDay Y Noche is a fun, Mexican restaurant located along the main street – East Broadway. It’s brightly decorated inside and they have a small patio out in front of the restaurant.

Whit’s Frozen Custard is a community favorite. On a summer afternoon, the patio will be filled with young families and older couples stopping by for their afternoon treat.


DO – Walk the quiet streets and admire all of the picture-perfect homes. In the summer, each home seemed prettier than the last with its lush landscaping and perfectly cared for exteriors.

If you happen to visit during the summer, you’ll want to look up Concerts on the Green on Denison’s Fine Arts Quad. A free concert series in a wooded park area nestled in the town and between the buildings at the base of the hill. They have several concerts throughout the summer with an accompanying food truck on the green. It’s the perfect excuse to slow down a bit and enjoy an evening of good food, good music, and good company.

3 miles west of Easton Town Center on Morse Road, just before I-71 is Saraga International Market, a marketplace of international culinary finds. Jackfruit? They have it. Maseca? They have it. Franck Jubilarna Kava (coffee) from Croatia? They have that too.

As you enter Saraga, you’ll be pulled in by their large selection of produce and fresh finds. With exotic fruits, a plethora of leafy greens, and colorful vegetables from around the world, there is no shortage of produce to look at. Once you make your way through all of the items, you’ll reach the you’ll find the first of several restaurants located within the store.

Each restaurant is a self-sustaining business within the market. Previously home to a restaurant featuring food from El

Salvador, you will now find a Mexican taqueria, Los Tizoncitos La Joya. They offer a selection of tacos and other traditional Mexican street foods like huaraches, tortas, burritos, and aguas frescos. Meeting all of the requirements for a great taco, Los Tizoncitos La Joya has fresh, soft corn tortillas, juicy meats, and handcrafted, homemade salsas to dress the tacos. Prior to Saraga, Los Tizoncitos was solely a food truck on the northwest side of town. Inside Saraga, Los Tizoncitos is exposed to customers from all over the world looking for ethnic fare.

The main part of the store is the dry foods section. Organized by region and/or country, each aisle has dry good finds native to that country or region. You’ll find products packaged in Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, and more. Since the store is organized by region versus product types, it can sometimes be a bit of challenge to find a specific product. For example, if you’re looking for dates should you seek out the European aisle or the middle Eastern section. The type of products and extensiveness products varies by region. For example, the Mexican aisle offers everything from traditional Mexican candies to salsas, moles, and canned goods. However, the European aisle has less food and instead is more focused on the coffees and teas (and the baked goods to accompany them).

Like a typical grocery store, Saraga also has a dairy and meat products section. They offer an extensive range of different types of cheeses and meat selection (including halal meat).

In addition to food, Saraga carries cooking tools and kitchen items. If you have been searching for cooper cookware or a specialty rice cooker, this would be the place to look. They have cookware for a variety of cuisines at affordable prices.

Once you’re made your way through the checkout, you won’t want to miss the Panderia on your way out the door. Baked fresh daily, this bakery has Mexican breads like conchas and orejas – not to mention a fantastic tres leches cake.

If you have an afternoon to spare and you’re looking for a little adventure, Saraga is the place to visit.