Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Colbert Brings 'Truthiness' to Immigration Debate

Famous faux news anchor Stephen Colbert made real news Friday when he provided 'expert' testimony before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugee, Border Security and International Law.  

Drawing attention to the plight of migrant workers appeared to be the goal of the appearance by the Emmy-winning host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.  Colbert expressed “hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to C-SPAN I.” And perhaps it worked.  The panel’s chair, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, who invited Colbert to appear, noted that the chamber had not been so packed since the Clinton impeachment proceedings.

For much of his appearance, Colbert testified in character.  At one point he commented that “the obvious answer” to farm labor shortages is “for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And, if you look at the recent obesity statistics, you’ll see that many Americans have already started.”

In a few serious moments, Colbert stepped out of character, commenting that “[i]t just seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result,” he said.  Colbert spent a day picking beans and packing corn in upstate New York. Testifying about his experience, which was documented on his show Thursday, Colbert expressed his belief that many Americans would be unwilling to do work of that nature.

The high profile testimony from Colbert came as part of the subcommittee's effort to examine the guest worker program, which allows people into the country temporarily to do farm work.  Many growers say they must hire the immigrants because they have a hard time hiring U.S. workers.  Opponents of the guest worker program argue that hiring immigrants depresses wages and leads to poor working conditions, making the jobs unattractive to U.S. residents. 

Watch Colbert's testimony here.

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