A project of the Center for Community Change

Colbert testifies on the Hill for immigration reform

Comedian Stephen Colbert, star and host of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law today to talk about the United Farm Workers‘ “Take Our Jobs” campaign.

This testimonial is filled with gems! You can sense that those sitting on the Subcommittee are desperately trying to hold in their laughter. I see you Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)!

One of the highlights from Colbert’s testimony is the part in which he connects the role of “free markets” to the conditions that necessitate migrant labor in the first place. Then he advocates for the improved legal status for immigrants arguing that improved legal status “might allow immigrants recourse if they’re abused.” He goes on to argue:

“And it just stands to reason to me, that if your co-worker cant be exploited,then you’re less likely to be exploited yourself and that itself, might improve pay and working conditions on these farms and eventually Americans may consider taking these jobs again. Or maybe that’s crazy.”

Not crazy, Stephen.  Not crazy.

This is actually something that immigrant organizers, leaders and activists have advocated for years. We call this idea raising the floor for all workers. And it makes sense. Check out this report here by the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center.

It’s worth mentioning that Colbert shared the stage with Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers (UFW). UFW is one of the nation’s most well-known labor unions. The most well-known names associated with UFW are Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta – two giants who have contributed greatly to the tradition of community organizing, particularly union organizing, in our nation.

Also worth mentioning is the pivotal role of Filipino farm workers in the first grape strike that brought about the creation of UFW. Larry Itliong, one of the principal organizers of Filipino farm workers is mostly unknown in the farm labor movement, yet it is Larry that was pivotal in convincing Chavez to join him and his union to strike.

Check out Larry’s story here:

And check out the documentary project that is bringing the story of Larry Itliong to light.

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