The United States has long welcomed people from distant shores. Ohio currently welcomes thousands of immigrants and refugees each year. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, a refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” In Ohio, most refugees have been resettled in Franklin, Cuyahoga, Montgomery, and Summit Counties. Resettlement agencies, religious organizations, and community groups are critical to helping persons adjust to their new communities by assisting with the most immediate needs of finding homes, developing English language skills, and medical care. These same organizations also assist with long term challenges such as job training. Immigrants are defined as “those who have entered the United States as a lawful permanent resident.”
In a recent report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs entitled “Growing the Heartland: How Immigrants Offset Population Decline and an Aging Workforce in Midwest Metropolitan Cities” stated that while much of the Midwest suffered net population loss between 2000-2009, the Akron, OH metropolitan area (Summit and Stark County) gained over 9,000 new residents and 54% of this was due to immigrants and refugees settling in the area. People from this population are starting businesses, buying homes, and increase the local economy.
In some counties, such as Cuyahoga and Montgomery, Ohio State University Extension has worked with organizations that help refugees and immigrants develop job skills via agri-businesses, such as farms and compost facilities.
Immigrants and refugees are changing the landscape of our Ohio cities, can help reverse population loss, and are becoming vibrant members of our communities. How can we best embrace and support our newest neighbors?
For more information:
David Crawford, Educator III
Stark County Extension Director & 4-H Youth Development