Steven Colbert on Immigration, Citizenship & Border Security.

Via Michael Levin
on Sep 25, 2010
get elephant's newsletter

Willing worker? (photo by Michael Levin)

Steven Colbert appeared before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Security to talk about the controversy surrounding immigration and migrant farm workers…

We only see what the media wants us to see in the vast ocean of news possibilities. Just watch international news once in a while and get a feel for what’s up around the world. The US immigration issue has gotten an incredible amount of press. For a change, the subcommittee was treated to a humorous but well thought out observation by someone who is well known by the public. Nevertheless, you’ll notice a leading congressional figure checking her cellphone on video during Colbert’s talk. Nice.

The immigration problem and migrant field worker issue is not as simple as it appears. America has an open door policy. We don’t restrict immigration based on discriminatory decisions. We do, however, have immigration quotas. We also have a workflow that an applicant needs to follow. So, yes, it’s a problem that we have illegal immigrants.

What are some of the issues surrounding immigration? Well, the obvious issues include the primary fact that each new immigrant becomes a new citizen, with all the rights associated with being an American citizen. These include social benefits and also tax liabilities. Just a note to consider.

At the same time, Steven Colbert pointed out that he spent a day learning what it is like to be a farm worker. His show focused, in a humorous way, just how difficult it actually is to work on a farm. He concluded that he never wanted to do it again.

Colbert added, on a serious note, that by allowing immigrants to enter America to work on farms, farm associations would probably be more closely monitored. These workers would be more likely to be treated fairly. He pointed out that, while right now most Americans don’t want to pick fruit and vegetables on a farm, perhaps if conditions improved more Americans would want jobs as farm workers.

How do you feel about the illegal farm worker issue? I say we need to let these willing workers into our country legally. We need to reward them with all the benefits any other immigrant gets upon entry and throughout their lives as US citizens. What possible argument could you have against allowing people who want to work, to do a job sorely needed, into our country?


About Michael Levin

Michael loves sharing what he's learned about organic lifestyles like living off the grid and bicycle commuting. He calls it "lifestyle entrepreneurship". He's into organic gardening, mindful living, and realizes that we only have this life and each other. His favorite quote is "The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both." (James A. Michener)


6 Responses to “Steven Colbert on Immigration, Citizenship & Border Security.”

  1. Sydney Solis says:

    I applaud Stephen Colbert for his humor and his defense of farm laborers. In the mid 1990s, I worked as a reporter in California's Central Valley and saw first-hand how difficult farm labor was. People picked grapes and packed peaches hours on end in 110 degree heat. They lived in deplorable housing, their children's education suffered and many were stricken by cancer from working among pesticides. I had the privilege of meeting Arturo Rodriguez and Dolores Huerta at many United Farm Workers functions, as well as Cesar Chavez's son, who all carry the torch to bring awareness and dignity to farm laborers. I just spent time on an eco yoga farm in Argentina, and I can attest that farming is very hard work. The biggest issue I think Americans need to be aware of is that your cheap food in the grocery store is made only possible by the slave labor that illegal immigration is. Your cheap stuff from China is made by slave labor as well. That's what capitalism is all about, benefiting from the cheap labor of others. Americans support slave labor to get cheap stuff, period, and are purposely in denial and very unconscious of this to fulfill their endless desires and material cravings. Slave labor has been going on since Columbus opened the door to plunder and pillage the New World. Recently some farmers in Hawaii were arrested for enslaving hundreds of Thai workers for years. Shockingly, there was no outcry from the community, but actually support for the farmers! This is what America is. I hope you are not a part of it and support legal immigration for farm workers.

  2. Randall Smith says:


  3. Ana says:

    well thought article, for the most part. I would just like to point out that not every immigrant becomes a citizen…at all. As a matter of fact naturalization process is not only expensive but also inaccessible in some cases. In other words because the system is broken, if they cross the border illegally there is no way they can become citizens, unless they return to their own countries and apply for a visa (which starts a 15 yr process). Since most people that cross the border are willing to work for so little and have few opportunities for education, they don't know how to navigate the immigration system and they can't afford a lawyer. An illegal or undocumented migrant doesn't get any of the benefits a U.S. citizen gets, even a legal immigrant doesn't. The only things are public schools (up to high school), emergency rooms and the roads and infrastructure while still paying taxes. Higher education, chance to get jobs that actually pay descent salaries, driver's licenses, social security, etc are all privileges that immigrants don't have and won't ever have, unless they are giving the opportunity (by an adjustment to current laws) to become citizens. Right now, it's virtually impossible.

  4. Melanie says:

    Thanks for bringing this issue more attention. It's great to have a personality like Colbert spotlighting these shadow workers and the challenges they face, as well as the unwillingness on the part of Americans to endure the labor they do. Unfortunately this article is not carefully researched, or maybe it's just not carefully worded. Ana already mentioned several aspects of illegal immigration that were neglected or misrepresented here. The fact that migrant workers are invited here to work, but not able to gain legal status of any kind, and then are scapegoated along with other illegal immigrants as a big part of America's social problems, and all the while they are underpaid, overworked, receive no benefits whatsoever– this is the heart of the problem. If we as Americans are going to treat ALL of our workers with equality and human rights, bills like the AgJobs bill, the DREAM Act, and better yet, comprehensive immmigration reform, are absolutely necessary. Updating our laws to accommodate our labor needs and discourage exploitation is not "amnesty." It is giving willing, hardworking people a chance to legally obtain what we have by birthright.

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I've learned a lot. Half the reason I wrote this article was to encourage conversation. Lovin' it! Ana, why is it a 15 year process to get through the immigration process? Most folks I know get it done much faster.

  6. Marc Bissou says:

    It is a 15 year process, because there are country quotas which limit immigration to 7000 individuals from each country in the world. If you get more than 7000 applicants, you queued which goes back 15-20 years. See here for more about dates look here: