For Fernando Torres, the vice president of operations at thermoplastics manufacturer Greene Tweed, the issue of immigration is personal. In 1996, at the age of 16, Torres immigrated to the United States. He was undocumented for a time, and he was forced to figure out how to stay afloat.
His story: Alone, without stable residency and barely speaking the language, Torres had a harrowing start in the U.S. But he worked his way through community college, where he excelled in math courses even though he wasn’t yet fluent in English. Torres attributes his love for math and science to his grandfather, who he says is the smartest man he’s ever met.
- “I had a difficult situation at the age of 16 in a new country without knowing the culture or the language, asking, what am I going to do?” said Torres. “Living in this country, it’s the country of opportunities, so I had to find ways to make it work and pursue the American dream.”
- “But, as an undocumented person, the jobs available were not pretty. Whether I was washing dishes at a seafood restaurant or cutting the lawns in Arizona in the middle of the 120-degree weather summers, I just had to find a way to survive.”
Entering the industry: After community college, Torres was accepted into Arizona State University’s program for aerospace engineering—and eventually, he found a place in the commercial sector at Greene Tweed. Today, he’s a U.S. citizen, and he’s just as passionate as ever about the value of immigration.
Immigration and manufacturing meet: Torres has seen the skills gap in manufacturing firsthand, and he knows how difficult it is to fill critical jobs. That’s one reason why immigration is so important to the manufacturing industry, he pointed out.
- “There is a shortage of people,” said Torres. “Skilled laborers are very difficult to find in our country, and retirements are outpacing anyone that’s coming in. There’s not enough people to run our factories—and if we want the economy to grow, we need people to grow it.”
An economic issue: Torres also emphasized that a person’s stance on the issue of immigration in manufacturing should come down to economic considerations.
- “We need to stop talking about immigration as a political issue—it’s a business issue,” said Torres. “We don’t have enough people to grow this economy internally. And if we can’t grow it internally, we have to open factories elsewhere. So this isn’t a political need, it’s an economic need.”
NAM’s push for change: NAM has long fought for commonsense immigration reform and outlined a series of proposals in A Way Forward—a road map that covers border security, reforms to legal immigration and permanent solutions for populations like DREAMers that are facing uncertainty.
The last word: “Immigrants are here to give, not to take away from this country—and we give a lot,” said Torres. “If it wasn’t for the waves of immigration during the last century to the United States, we wouldn’t be the number one economy in the world.”
Washington, D.C. – Ahead of the midterm elections, the National Association of Manufacturers released its policy roadmap, “Competing to Win,” a comprehensive blueprint featuring immediate solutions for bolstering manufacturers’ competitiveness. It is also a roadmap for policymakers on the laws and regulations needed to strengthen the manufacturing industry in the months and years ahead.
With the country facing rising prices, snarled supply chains and geopolitical turmoil, manufacturers are outlining an actionable competitiveness agenda that Americans across the political spectrum can support. “Competing to Win” includes the policies manufacturers in America will need in place to continue driving the country forward.
“‘Competing to Win’ offers a path for bringing our country together around policies, shared values and a unified purpose,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “The NAM is putting forward a plan filled with ideas that policymakers could pursue immediately, including solutions to urgent problems, such as energy security, immigration reform, supply chain disruptions, the ongoing workforce shortage and more. Manufacturers have shown incredible resilience through difficult times, employing more workers now than before the pandemic, but continued resilience is not guaranteed without the policies that are critical to the state of manufacturing in America.”
The NAM and its members will leverage “Competing to Win” to shape policy debates ahead of the midterm elections, in the remainder of the 117th Congress and at the start of the 118th Congress—including in direct engagement with lawmakers, for grassroots activity, across traditional and digital media and through events in key states and districts as we did following the initial rollout of the roadmap in 2016.
The document focuses on 12 areas of action, and all policies are rooted in the values that have made America exceptional and keep manufacturing strong: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
Learn more about how manufacturers are leading and about the industry’s competitiveness agenda at nam.org/competing-to-win.
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.77 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 58% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org