This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with John Dearie, founder and president of the Center for American Entrepreneurship, a Washington, D.C.-based research, policy and advocacy organization. Immigration is core to his mission to build a policy environment that promotes entrepreneurship because he knows all too well that the United States was and continues to be built by entrepreneurial immigrants who had the drive and determination to pick up, leave everything they know behind, and build a new life in a new homeland. So to John, it is no surprise they are twice as likely to take another risk: start a business. He’s also seen across the country frustration among business owners, both U.S.-born and foreign-born, at an immigration system that works against this country’s interest. Why? Because it doesn’t seek to actively attract or retain talent from the rest of the world. John sees the decline in U.S. entrepreneurship and believes that more immigration, not less, would power the nation’s economy and innovation, which have made us the global leader. Instead, he’s seeing an unnecessarily partisan and toxic approach to immigration that, he says, harms us all and is inherently unamerican, as you’ll discover in this week’s JobMakers.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Dr. Bernat Olle, co-founder and CEO of Vedanta Biosciences, about his journey from Catalonia, Spain, to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he continued his Chemical Engineering studies at MIT. Navigating the complex immigration system while seeking purpose in his career, he eventually found his calling and was lucky enough to remain in the U.S. to see it through: designing a new class of medicines to modulate the human microbiome. They duscuss how everyone wins when foreign-born talent is welcomed into vibrant, entrepreneurial ecosystems like those in the U.S., when they’re able to collaborate with others from the U.S. and around the world and come up with incredible ideas to benefit all people. Bernat also expresses a sense of kinship with immigrants far removed from the labs and boardrooms. He knows that the same aspiration – opportunity – attracted those who came here with nothing but a suitcase and a dream, as you’ll discover in this week’s JobMakers.

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Dr. Bernat Olle is a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Vedanta Biosciences. He has been a member of the founding teams of several companies of the PureTech portfolio and served as a member of the Board of Directors of Vedanta Biosciences and Follica Biosciences. In 2013 Dr. Olle was named “Innovator of the Year” in MIT Technology Review Spain’s “Innovators under 35” awards. He also received the 2019 Barry M. Portnoy Immigrant Entrepreneur Award from The Immigrant Learning Center. He completed his doctoral work at the Chemical Engineering Department at MIT, where he developed a novel method for large-scale bacterial culture. During his graduate work, Dr. Olle was awarded the “la Caixa” fellowship. Dr. Olle received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Universitat Rovira i Virgili, in Catalonia, his M.S. and PhD. in Chemical Engineering Practice from MIT, and his M.B.A. from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has published his work in journals including Nature and Nature Biotechnology.

Last week on JobMakers, we met Abdul Saboor Sakhizada, a former translator, instructor and manager for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, now living with his family in upstate New York. He spoke about life as a child of war, and what it was like in the front lines alongside U.S. troops, including Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth. This week, Abdul reveals that he is actively trying to evacuate fellow Afghan interpreters and their families, including his own baby brother, and he gives us his thoughts on the U.S. withdrawal, paints a picture of who these Afghan refugees are, and entreats Americans to reject the false rhetoric, and get to know these new Americans, in this final edition of a two-part special of JobMakers.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Abdul Saboor Sakhizada, who worked as an instructor, manager and translator for the U.S. Army (and received a Department of the Army Superior Civilian Service Award) in Kabul, Afghanistan. In the first of a two-part special, we get to know Afghanistan and its people, examine the fallout of the government collapse and learn how Abdul is actively working in the most difficult and chaotic of circumstances to get as many people evacuated from Afghanistan as possible. This week, we hear about the fascinating but tragic life in Afghanistan from Abdul, a self-described child of war, and we discover what those 50,000 interpreters had to endure every day, fueled by patriotism and targeted as traitors, in this special episode of JobMakers.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute, about why Pioneer collaborated with The Immigrant Learning Center to produce this podcast. They discuss the overrepresentation of immigrants in terms of job creation in America, contrary to the myth that immigrants “take” jobs. For Jim, it is a story that needs to be told because it is at the core of American enterprise, innovation and prosperity; but it is also personal. He describes his own family’s history of starting a business as young immigrants to the U.S. from Greece, and connects it to the common story of America, a nation of immigrant families old and new. And Jim believes the entrepreneurial spirit of yesteryear is the same among today’s immigrants, as you’ll learn in this week’s JobMakers.

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What do we know about regugees and the process of identifying, screening and resettling people from foreign lands who cannot go back home? For Jaisang Sun, research associate at The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute, and the guest on this week’s episode of JobMakers, correcting misinformation and disinformation about refugees is paramount, especially today with the potential for an influx of refugees who assisted our special forces in Afghanistan and the consequent public discourse around it. Jai clears the air with JobMakers host Denzil Mohammed on refugees and the resettlement program, including costs and benefits to us, and more importantly, he profiles just who refugees are – people like you and me, except displaced and persecuted with nowhere to go, something many of us will never experience.

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Immigrants innovate. Kendall Square in Cambridge or Silicon Valley wouldn’t be what they are today without the innovation and ingenuity of immigrants. But the dense and convoluted immigration system doesn’t always allow for that retention of skill and talent. This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Jeff Goldman, immigration attorney and Chair of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s Advisory Council on Immigrants and Refugees, about how best to ensure that highly skilled and innovative immigrants can remain in the U.S., start companies, and create jobs for Americans. Jeff co-founded the Massachusetts Global Entrepreneur in Residence program for immigrant university students to continue learning, teaching, and innovating. Jeff sees how much skilled immigrants add to our economic vibrancy and innovative edge, and he’s also keenly aware of the tremendous impact on our daily lives of undocumented immigrant workers and what Massachusetts has done to enable them to thrive.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Trevor Mattos, research manager at Boston Indicators, the research center at The Boston Foundation, which educates state and local leaders on the important contributions immigrants are making. They discuss the urgency of this work, particularly in a time of divisive disinformation about immigrants and the uncertainty of the pandemic, and some of the surprising findings on the disproportionately large impact immigrant workers, entrepreneurs and innovators are having on the local economy, from Kendall Square in Cambridge to the Latin Quarter in Jamaica Plain. His research goes further, however, to show how our increasing diversity enriches the lives of all Americans, new or old, and gives us a competitive edge, as you’ll learn in this week’s JobMakers.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Danielle Goldman, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Open Avenues Foundation in Boston, about their work to help high-growth companies and start-ups retain the high-skilled, foreign-born talent they need through cap-exempt H-1B visas. They discuss the example of Eric Yuan from China, who, after getting rejected for a visa eight times, was finally allowed to stay in the U.S. Here, he founded a company that has become indispensable to so many of us, for our kids’ education, our jobs, our healthcare, and staying connected with family members we couldn’t visit during the pandemic: Zoom. Creating innovation when we need it most, Yuan illustrates how the U.S. benefits when we remove immigration barriers in highly competitive industries where talent is scarce.

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Misinformation and disinformation about immigration in the U.S. is ubiquitous. For Prof. James Witte, director of the Institute for Immigration Research, getting the facts about U.S. immigration out to the public is a challenge. The Institute for Immigration Research is a joint venture between George Mason University and The Immigrant Learning Center of Malden, Massachusetts, the co-producer of this podcast. One of the goals of the Institute’s work is to position the immigration data, research and stories within a framework of inclusiveness, so Americans will understand that they are not disconnected from immigration. Rather, we all, U.S.-born and foreign-born, help fuel this country’s economy, enrich its culture, and make it the powerhouse that it is.  Prof. Witte also helps explain the resistance to immigrants and facts about them, and how we can counter that, in this week’s JobMakers. 

James Witte is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Director of the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR). Witte, who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1991, has been a professor at Clemson University and Northwestern University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carolina Population Center and a lecturer in sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Witte has written numerous articles that have appeared in journals such as The European Sociological ReviewPopulation and Development Review and Sociological Methods and Research.  He has also published three books, Labor Force Integration and Marital Choice, the Internet and Social Inequality and The Normal Bar.  The Normal Bar, co-authored with Chrisanna Northrup and Pepper Schwartz, was released in 2013 and made the New York Times bestseller list. Dr. Witte came to Mason in the fall of 2009 to take over leadership of CSSR.  Since then CSSR has grown in the amount and range of funded research it conducts. Major projects have included the privately funded Institute for Immigration Research, the National Science Foundation funded Digital Archive Project, and the University Partnership with the University of Karachi funded by the U.S. State Department.

This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Sonny Vu, serial entrepreneur and investor, about his work across continents to develop new technologies, processes and products that have, what he calls, “positive, planet-level impact.” This is impact that makes lives and environments safer and better, which Sonny views as the core of his faith. Embracing diversity, change and the unknowns of new knowledge was what Sonny’s parents instilled in him from the beginning. Their journey as refugees to the U.S., leaving under cover of darkness, sailing below deck to a camp in Malaysia, finally to be resettled in Oklahoma City, meant they were survivors, and they embraced the transformational change of life in the U.S., as hard as it was at first. People who have been through unimaginable tragedy and hardship often know how to be creative and inventive to survive, even among totally foreign lands, cultures, and languages. Transformational change is what Sonny is all about today, as you’ll discover in this week’s JobMakers.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Shane Smyth, owner of Hugh O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Malden, and co-owner of five more restaurants in Newton and Boston, one of which he launched during the pandemic.  Shane shares why he views immigrant workers as the backbone of the restaurant industry (immigrants account for over 40 percent of our agricultural workforce and one-fifth of our food prep and serving workforce), and the tremendous skills and drive they bring. Shane offers strategies for restaurants to survive crises, something that cannot happen without immigrants, as you’ll find out in this week’s JobMakers.
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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Anita Worden, renewable energy business entrepreneur, about her work to improve representation of women in crucial economic sectors like technology, a place where they can innovate and have real impact.  Anita was born in England of Indian parents, grew up in Algeria, moved to the U.S. as a teenager, and attended MIT. While still a student, she co-founded her first company, Solectria Corporation, in 1989, and then went on to found Solectria Renewables in 2005, both of which were acquired.  Now retired, Anita is working to promote tech as a viable, lucrative and satisfying career choice for women and girls, just as she’s educating Americans about her passions, climate change and shifting the narrative around immigrants in the U.S.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with David Dyssegaard Kallick, Deputy Director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank Fiscal Policy Institute and Assistant Visiting Professor at the Pratt Institute, on the impact of immigrants in local and national settings. And what he’s found should come as no surprise: immigrants and refugees are a net benefit to the U.S. and always have been. In fact, we owe a lot to immigration for revitalizing metro U.S. after population loss and economic decline since the 1960s, enriching our culture and cuisine, making our communities safer, creating jobs and businesses, and giving us a competitive edge when it comes to innovation, as you’ll find out in this week’s JobMakers podcast.

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This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with Ely Kaplansky, President & CEO of Kaplansky Insurance. Ely’s unconventional path included dropping out of high school and essentially taking the place of the insurance business where he got his start, when it was found that they were committing unethical practices. And since 1974, Ely has created hundreds of jobs in Massachusetts and beyond, with 85 employees in 15 offices across the state today, and he has grown his business especially during the pandemic, with 37 acquisitions to date, such that Kaplansky Insurance was named to INC’s 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America list.  Ely’s success is more than just the pride of having made it. His success fulfilled the dreams of his parents when they moved from Israel to America in 1955, with just the clothes on their backs and an aunt to take them in. Their journey began in the concentration camps of Germany, and Ely’s story is all about the opportunity and freedom America offers, as you’ll discover in this week’s JobMakers.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Russian-born entrepreneur Semyon Dukach about the high value of immigrants to the U.S. Dukach started a seed stage fund for immigrant tech founders, One Way Ventures, in response to the early restrictive moves of the Trump administration, particularly the Muslim ban. In his 20 years of angel investing, he noticed a trend: immigrant-led companies repeatedly outperformed the rest of his portfolio. Indeed, immigrants make up less than 14 percent of the U.S. population but launched 24 percent of high-tech startups and founded or co-founded 55 percent of America’s billion-dollar startups. In this episode, Dukach shares his thoughts on how to reform America’s immigration policies.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Jo Napolitano, journalist, former Spencer Fellow at Columbia University, and author of the new book, The School I Deserve: Six Young Refugees and Their Fight for Equality in America, about the enterprising spirit of immigrants and refugees across the nation and at the U.S.-Mexico border. She’s seen children fight to go to good schools so they can fulfil their dreams, learning with donated tablets in tents in Mexico during the pandemic, and she’s seen the outcomes: ambitious young adults who used education and the relative safety of the United States to thrive. They discuss her conviction, drawn from her own immigrant experience and her observations, that educating immigrant children, including those who are undocumented, is not only the moral thing to do but an investment in our collective economic well-being. With better jobs, they can contribute more, and they can improve lives for all Americans.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Umesh Bhuju, owner of Zumi’s Espresso in Ipswich, Massachusetts, about how a business model based on selling nothing but fair-trade products can thrive in a world driven by profit. He describes his early experiences in his homeland of Nepal, where he witnessed child labor, and how that has shaped his pursuit of the American dream. Over the past 20 years, through his successful business, he’s been educating Americans about just how far their dollar can go – paying farmers respectable wages, reducing environmental impact, and supporting developing economies; as well as how businesses can catalyze social progress. In this episode, Umesh shares how he has extended his activism to fighting for the rights of immigrants, preserving local habitats, and combatting food insecurity during the pandemic, even as his own business has battled the downturn.

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This week on JobMakers, Host Denzil Mohammed talks with Dr. Babak Movassaghi, founder of InfiniteMD (acquired last summer by ConsumerMedical), which connects patients with top U.S. medical professionals through second-opinion video consultations, guiding patients to better care. When the world shut down due to COVID-19, Dr. Movassaghi’s company was already prepared to serve patients via telehealth. In this episode, they discuss his fascinating pivot from physics and professional football in Germany, to healthcare and innovation here in the U.S., an extension of his ability to navigate multiple identities as an Iranian-German living the American Dream.

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This week on JobMakers, Guest Host Jo Napolitano talks with Jitka Borowick, Founder & CEO of Cleangreen, a cleaning service committed to environmentally-friendly practices, and Nove Yoga, launched during COVID. Jitka grew up under communism in the Czech Republic. Determined to learn English, she made her way to the U.S., initially with plans to stay for only one year – but ended up making it her home. In this episode, they discuss the difficulties of learning another language and culture, her pathway to entrepreneurship, and her courageous decision to open a new business during a pandemic. Jitka shares insights on how her companies have successfully adapted to the challenges so many small businesses have encountered over the past year.

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