This week United Farm Workers (UFW) President Arturo S. Rodriguez appeared with comedian Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, whom he recruited to take part in the national “Take Our Jobs” campaign aimed at recruiting U.S. citizens and legal residents to fill jobs that frequently go to undocumented farm workers and to urge enactment of immigration reform.
The UFW launched the national “Take Our Jobs” campaign in response to anti-immigration rhetoric that claims illegal immigrants take away jobs form American citizens. The campaign invites U.S. citizens and legal residents to replace tens of thousands of immigrant field laborers, most of whom are undocumented.
Rodriguez and Colbert addressed the growing anti-immigrant sentiment and encouraged Americans to apply for jobs that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calls one of the top 10 most dangerous in the nation. The UFW hopes the appearance will generate public interest in the Take Our Jobs effort as well as expose the human side of the immigration debate.
While the campaign is satirical in nature, Rodriguez argued the need for immigration reform is serious. “Farm workers are tired of being blamed by politicians and anti-immigrant activists for taking work that should go to Americans and dragging down the economy,” Rodriguez said. “The reality is farm workers who are here today aren’t taking any American jobs away. They work in often unbearable situations. I don’t think there will be many takers, but the offer is being made. Let’s see what happens.”
Organizers of the campaign plan to take it to Congress in hopes of getting much needed immigration reform passed. The drive spotlights the issue of immigrant laborers who are the backbone of the country’s agricultural economy. Without reform, domestic agriculture could be crippled, leading to more jobs moving off shore.
When asked by Colbert about the number of volunteers the campaign has earned so far, Rodriguez answered that three had signed up. Colbert responded, “Make that four.” As to when Colbert will join farm workers in the fields, the date has not been set.
The farm worker population of the United States is overwhelmingly immigrant, with about 85 percent of workers born outside of the United States. Today, the vast majority of farm workers are unauthorized, according to government statistics.
The UFW has negotiated the AgJobs bill with the agricultural industry that would give undocumented farm workers presently here the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture. Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN.) are the principal co-authors in the Senate and U.S. Reps. Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Howard Berman (D-CA) are chief sponsors in the House.
For more information about the UFW go to www.ufw.org.