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Colbert: Migrant Work is ‘Really, Really Hard’

Stephen Colbert went off testimony — way off — today when he testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee. His written testimony was pretty straight-forward and serious, but he jumped back into character when he spoke. Still, he advocated for AgJOBS and worker visa reform: “Maybe the AgJOBS bill would help,” he told the committee. “I don’t know — like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.”

Colbert was invited after he spent a day working on a farm as part of the United Farm Workers of America’s “Take Our Jobs” initiative. His appearance at the committee was somewhat controversial, with critics calling it a stunt. “Does one day in the field make you an ‘expert witness?’” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) asked. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) even asked Colbert to leave so they could get on with more serious testimonies. After he heard from an anti-AgJOBS expert, Conyers took back his request, and Colbert stayed to testify.

Still, Colbert made some serious statements about the need for immigration reform. “Please don’t make me do this again; It is really, really hard,” he said. “This brief experience gave me some understanding why so few Americans are clamoring for seasonal migrant worker jobs.”

He advocated for specific policies, arguing Congress should pass AgJOBs, which would allow farm workers to come to the U.S. as guest workers and eventually allow some to become legal U.S. residents. While current farm conditions are tough and wages are low, Colbert argued wages and conditions could be improved if Congress enacted the bill or reformed the worker visa system.

“If your coworker can’t be exploited, you’re less likely to be exploited yourself,” Colbert said. “Maybe that would improve conditions on these farms so Americans would take these jobs.”

Immigration reform advocates have pushed for smaller reform legislation, such as AgJOBS and the DREAM Act, as comprehensive immigration reform looks increasingly unlikely in the current political climate. Going briefly off character to advocate a Democrat-pushed policy, Colbert said he supports comprehensive reform.

“We’ve ignored this issue for way too long,” Colbert said. “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and face this issue mano to — whatever the Spanish word for ‘mano’ is.”

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