Stephen Colbert didn’t exactly get the best of welcomes to a panel of the House Judiciary Committee Friday. Scheduled to testify on immigration reform, he was summarily asked to leave.
The exit request came from Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the full House Judiciary Committee.
“I would like to recommend that now that you have got all this attention, you remove yourself and allow us to get on with the hearing … and leave a statement instead,” said Conyers, taking a dim view of the celebrity aspect of a having a comedian testifying.
Colbert was invited by the chairman of the committee’s panel, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and by the United Farm Workers, after spending a day as a farm worker. He agreed to leave -- but only if Lofgren asked. When she didn’t, he went ahead and testified -- suggesting his presence would bump the hearing’s profile “all the way to C-SPAN 1.”
The UFW has been working on legislation with the agricultural industry that would give undocumented farm workers already in the country the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture. Its “Take Our Jobs” campaign invites U.S. citizens and legal residents to replace hundreds of thousands of immigrant field laborers, most of whom are undocumented.
It was clear Colbert wasn't going to leave his wry humor behind.
'“I participated in UFW’s Take Our Job campaign, one of only 16 people in America to take up the challenge though that number may soon increase in the near future because I understand many Democrats may be looking for jobs in November. “
He also told the committee:
“As you have heard this morning, America’s farms are far too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables. The obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And if you will look at the recent obesity statistics, you will see that many Americans have already started.
“Unfortunately, my gastroenterologist Dr. Eikler has informed me that they are a necessary source of roughage. As evidence, I would like to submit a video of my colonoscopy into the Congressional Record."
“Now, we all know," he continued, "there is a long tradition of great nations importing foreign workers to do their farm work," he continued. "After all, it was the ancient Israelites who built the first food pyramids.
“But this is America. I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian. Because my great grandfather did not travel 4,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants. He did it because he killed a man in Ireland. That’s the rumor.
“So we do not want immigrants doing this labor? I reject this idea that farm work is among the semi mythical jobs that Americans won’t do. I did,” he said, noting his day in the fields.
Colbert did finally get serious. He told the committee about how hard the work was and endorsed legislation they were considering to ease immigration standards for migrant workers already working in the country.
“I trust that following my testimony, both sides will work together on the issues of the American people as you always do,” he said to laughter.
The “Take Our Jobs” campaign invites U.S. citizens and legal residents to replace hundreds of thousands of immigrant field laborers, most of whom are undocumented. According to the union, more than 3 million people have visited the campaign’s website. Of those, 8,600 have expressed an interest in seeking employment as farm workers. But despite the numbers, only seven people have taken the UFW up on its offer to take a job in agriculture.
The UFW has been working on legislation with the agricultural industry that would give undocumented farm workers already in the country the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture.
Colbert, of course, is set to return to Washington on Oct. 30, for a "March to Keep Fear" rally. It will "compete" on the same day with pal Jon Stewart's “Return to Sanity” rally on the National Mall.