Williams-Scott said one frustration in the community, like other refugee communities, is that people who used to be doctors or nurses or other professionals come here with no documentation, forcing them to take lower-paying jobs. Multiple groups serve the Somali community in Columbus, Chambers said, but they don't have enough resources. Chambers also found that the level of philanthropic support of Somali groups is virtually absent in Columbus.
Like Chambers, Hassan Omar, who leads the Somali Community Association of Ohio, said the Twin Cities, and Minnesota in general, are more progressive than Ohio, and encourage more integration. A Columbus Foundation representative told her that Somalis don't pursue grants here.
If Columbus leaders want to better integrate local Somalis, one way would be to recruit more of them into law enforcement.
"It's one of those missed opportunities," said Stefanie Chambers, an associate professor of political science at Trinity College in Connecticut.
Another reason things might be better in the Twin Cities, according to Chambers: unionized jobs.
"This is the American dream, as they say — that your dreams are valid."Yusuf and others said Omar also is an important role model and inspiration for young Somali women who might aspire to run for political office someday."We hear so much about Muslim women being treated differently," Yusuf said.
Chambers said there's a mistrust in both metro areas between some in the community and the FBI. Somalis are concerned that they only show up when there is problem.
There's a feeling that they don't have the long-term interest.
Columbus' at-large council system makes it much more difficult for a Somali representative to be elected. As Chambers wrote the book, the Minneapolis Police Department had seven Somali officers, with several others in the academy. Paul had one female officer who wore a snap-on hijab, a head-scarf. Chambers said it makes no sense that Columbus police won't allow potential female recruits from the community to wear the hijab. "In my mind, you want the police force to reflect the community that they're serving," Chambers said.
Mohammed Dirieh, program director of Wadajir Social Services in western Franklin County, said Somalis in Minnesota also have a state representative in Minneapolis. Columbus police leaders said in 2015 that they wanted the division to be perceived as a nonreligious, nonpolitical organization, and that the uniform should reflect that neutrality. Local Somali leaders here said their community remains apart from the population overall, despite having a significant presence here for two decades.
But Omar's story likely will have ripple effects in communities across the United States, including St. Abdi Daisane is the lone Somali candidate running for political office in St. He's seeking a seat on the City Council along with four other candidates. She's someone who can actually bring a community of all races, of all ethnicities, of all ages together."Daisane said it's important for Somali-Americans to have a representative in the Legislature.