The prospects for immigration reform this year are on a tight deadline with the midterm elections looming in November, and most see little chance of a comprehensive deal clearing the House of Representatives by August.
That's too bad because an increasing number of people on both the left and right are seeing that America's broken immigration system is bad for the economy and our communities at large. And as the above image shows, in an age of globalization, it doesn't make sense for the U.S. to wall off immigrants — especially because the current system is seriously damaging our ability to make many of our everyday goods at home.
The National Association of Manufacturers says immigration reform is a top industry priority and that in 2013 600,000 American manufacturing jobs were unfilled at a time of high unemployment because they couldn't find workers with the appropriate skills.
"Without major reforms, we will continue sending talent to our competitors and turning away a future generation of entrepreneurs," the organization said. "In fact, more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were either started by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant ... American manufacturing enterprises founded by immigrants span all sectors, from technology to steel to chemicals to medical devices to many others. We do not want to lose this economic driver."
Another report by the Partnership for a New American Economy and AS/COA says foreign-born workers are "helping to grow the U.S. manufacturing sector and prevent much-needed U.S. manufacturing jobs from moving elsewhere." They estimate for every 1,000 immigrants, 46 manufacturing jobs are created or preserved. That means the 40 million immigrants in the U.S. have created or preserved over 1.8 million manufacturing jobs, or more than one-seventh of the industry. Highly skilled immigrants are needed in high-tech industries like pharmaceuticals and computing, while lower-skilled immigrants are needed to replenish a shrinking labor pool.
Image Credit: RenewOurEconomy.org
In some places, they argue, manufacturing would have actually contracted even further from 1970-2010 without immigration.
All together, they conclude:
All across the country, the manufacturing jobs that once provided families a sure route to the middle class are much less plentiful than in earlier decades. In those communities that have managed to buck the trend, immigration has played a critical role. Areas that have failed to attract immigrants tend to lack plentiful job opportunities for the U.S. born; on the contrary, the dominant trend in such communities has been the wholesale loss of jobs.
With that in mind, here are 13 everyday products American consumers are just fine with purchasing from foreigners. A successful immigration reform package could help ensure more of them are made in the U.S.
The iconic American baseball isn't very American anymore. In fact, all 2.4 million of official MLB provider Rawlings' baseballs are made in the town of Turrialba in central Costa Rica, where workers hand-stitch the balls. Also, the wool yarn is from New Zealand sheep.
2. American flags
The vast majority of American flags are still made at home. But 94% of imported U.S. flags ($3.6 million) are made in China, while the federal government requires only 50% American materials for its flag purchases.
3. Barbie dolls
Barbies have never actually been made in the United States, moving from Hong Kong facilities established in 1965 to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. These days it's made in China.
The map above is what it takes to produce the 250,000 tons of Nutella every year. Nutella comes from all over the damn place.
Sold in 75 countries, the hazelnut spread is produced in nine facilities. Four are in Western Europe: Villers-Ecalles, France; Alba and Sant'angelo dei Lombardi, Italy; Belsk, Poland; and Stadtallendorf, Germany. Another is located east of Moscow in Vladimir, Russia. Brantford, Ontario, hosts a plant, as does Lithgow, Australia. Furthermore, South America hosts two, one in Pocos de Caldas, Brazil, and another in Los Cardales, Argentina.
The ingredients come from pretty much everywhere. Some are brought in locally when convenient, like plastic for the brand's unique containers or milk. The hazelnuts are from Turkey, and the palm oil comes from Malaysia. The cocoa is grown in Nigeria's expansive fields, while most of the sugar comes from Brazil (but also Europe) and the vanilla from China (from a French manufacturer that also pumps out vanillin in France).
5. Red wagons
Radio Flyer, Inc., decided to move production of its old-timey red wagons to China in 2004, citing unsustainable costs at its Chicago facility. Its tricycles, scooters and most of its other toys are already being made there.
6. American cars
Just because you buy American doesn't mean your car actually is American. In 2006, about 25% of auto parts were imported, while an additional 25% were produced by U.S.-based facilities owned by foreign companies. In 2012, Mexico made 19% of North American light vehicles; by 2020, it may account for 22% of all North American light vehicle production. In 2008, the car with the highest percentage of U.S./Canada parts was the Ford Crown Victoria at 90% — and it's assembled in Canada.
In 2011, America was sixth in total vehicle production, behind China, Japan, Germany, South Korea and India. But it imported about $253.3 billion in cars in 2013 — $51.1 billion of them from Japan, $59.9 billion from Mexico, $33.2 billion from Germany, $10.5 billion from China, $17 billion from South Korea and billions more from around the world.
7. Craftsmen tools
Sears bills its classic Craftsmen tools as all-American, but the company has fought suits since 2004 claiming that many of them are made in China. Plaintiffs said that the tool company utilized more than 130 Chinese manufacturers producing the Craftsman line.
Sure, there's an ongoing, mostly American-made craft beer revolution sweeping the country. But ever since Anheuser-Busch was bought by Brazilian-Belgian brewing company InBev in 2008, Bud has been taking a sideline to some of InBev's import brands like Beck's, Hoegaarden, Lowenbrau, Spaten and Labatt.
About 10% of the American beer market is imported. It's the fastest-growing sector in the industry, dwarfing craft beer's 3% share.
Ready for this? For a stretch of time from roughly 2004-2012 no televisions were made in America, according to Businessweek. Almost all U.S. televisions are made by major Asian brands, with only a few American companies now restarting television production. It's nearly certain that your TV was manufactured an ocean away.
In 2008, 1.2 billion cellphones were sold worldwide. According to Manufacturing & Technology News' Richard McCormack, not a single one was manufactured in the United States, although U.S. companies still held market share.
11. Forks, spoons and knives
The last U.S. flatware factory, located in Sherrill, N.Y., closed in 2010. Sherrill Manufacturing said that U.S. production was losing out to less expensive Chinese imports.
Apple manufactures pretty much all of its products in China, with the exception of a newer Mac Pro model. So the next time you're in the Apple store, remember that you're looking almost entirely at products that have been shipped across half the world.
13. Everything At Walmart
In 2012, Demos reported that Walmart purchased over $27 billion worth of Chinese goods, touting its direct relationships with some 20,000 Chinese suppliers. While the company announced a $50 billion "Buy American" campaign spread out over the next decade in 2013, that's just a fragment of the goods Walmart imports from China, Bangladesh, Honduras, Cambodia and other countries.