Chicago Tribune

As U.S. limits refugees, some Chicago employers fear losing a good talent pool

CHICAGO _After fleeing the war in her native Bosnia, Zemira Bajrektarevic arrived in Chicago to face a new set of fears.

Bajrektarevic didn't know English. She didn't know how she'd earn money. When RefugeeOne, a resettlement agency, placed her in a job at Eli's Cheesecake, removing baked cakes from their pans, she didn't know she had leadership qualities that would eventually make her an invaluable employee at the quintessential Chicago company.

Twenty years later, Bajrektarevic, 49, is a foreman at the Eli's factory in the Dunning neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side, overseeing many colleagues who, like her, are refugees.

"I love it," she said during a break from supervising a line of 18 workers churning out trays of raspberry oat bars. "I like my boss. I like the job. I like (to) help the people."

Eli's Cheesecake is among numerous local employers that make it a point to hire refugees, giving the dessert-maker a loyal and consistent supply of employees at a time when Americans aren't lining up for factory jobs, President

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