I know a lot of you have been probably looking for a transcript of what Colbert said in front of Congress yesterday on the subject of migrant workers. So here it is. This is not the full transcript; he took a number of questions that I don’t have the transcripts of. But this is the majority of his testimony. Enjoy.
Good morning. My name is Stephen Colbert and I’m an American citizen. It is an honor and a privilege to be here today. Congresswoman Lofgren asked me to share my vast experience spending one day as a migrant farm worker. I am happy to use my celebrity to draw attention to this important, complicated issue, and I certainly hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to C-SPAN1.
As you’ve heard this morning, America’s farms are presently far too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables. Now, the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And, if you look at recent obesity statistics, you’ll see that many Americans have already started. Unfortunately, my gastroenterologist, Dr. Eichler, has informed me in no uncertain terms 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 there is a long tradition of great nations importing foreign workers to do their farm work. 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 across 4,000 miles of the Atlantic ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants. He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That’s the rumor; I don’t know if that’s true, I’d like to have that stricken from the record.
So, we do not want immigrants doing this labor, and I agree with Congress King – we must secure our borders. Of course, I’m sure Arturo Rodriguez is saying, “Who, then, would pick our crops, Stephen?” First of all, Arturo, don’t interrupt me when I’m talking, that’s rude. Second, I reject this idea that farm work is among the semi-difficult jobs that Americans won’t do. Really? No Americans? I did. As part of my ongoing series, “Stephen Colbert’s Fallback Position,” where I try other jobs and realize that mine is way better. I participated in the UFW’s “Take Our Jobs” campaign, one of only 16 people in America to take up the challenge. Though that number may increase in the near future, as I understand many Democrats may be looking for work come November.
Now, I’ll admit – I started my workday with preconceived notions of migrant labor. But after working with these men and women, picking beans, packing corn, for hours on end, side by side in the unforgiving sun, I have to say – and I do mean this sincerely – please don’t make me do this again. It is really, really hard. For one thing, when you’re picking beans, you have to spend all day bending over. It turns out, and I did not know this, but most soil is at ground level. If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we make the earth waist high? Come on! Where is the funding?
This brief experience gave me some small understanding of why so few Americans are clamoring to begin an exciting career as seasonal migrant field workers. So what’s the answer? I’m a free-market guy. Normally, I would leave this to the invisible hand of the market, but the invisible hand of the market has already moved over 84,000 acres of production and over 22,000 farm jobs to Mexico, and shut down over a million acres of U.S. farm land due to lack of available labor. Because apparently, even the invisible hand doesn’t want to pick beans.
Now, I’m not a fan of the government doing anything. But I’ve gotta ask, why isn’t the government doing anything? Maybe this Ag Jobs bill would help, I don’t know. Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.But maybe we could offer more visas to the immigrants who, let’s face it, will probably be doing these jobs anyway. And this improved legal status might allow immigrants recourse if they are abused. And it just stands to reason, to me, that if your coworker can’t be exploited, then you’re less likely to be exploited yourself. And that, itself, might improve pay and working conditions on these farms, and eventually, Americans may consider taking these jobs again. Or maybe that’s crazy. Maybe the easier answer is just to have scientists develop vegetables that pick themselves. The genetic engineers over at Fruit of the Loom have made great strides in human-fruit hybrids.
The point is, we have to do something, because I am not going back out there. At this point, I break into a cold sweat at the sight of a salad bar. I thank you for your time. Again, it is an honor, a privilege, and a responsibility to be here. I trust that following my testimony, both sides will work together on this issue in the best interest of America, as you always do. [Audible laughter]
I’m now prepared to take your questions, and/or pose for pictures with your grandchildren. I yield the balance of my time, USA, number one.
REP. CHU: Mr. Colbert, you could work on so many issues. Why are you interested in this issue?
COLBERT: [Takes a pause of two or three beats to think before answering, dropping character] I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and it seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come in and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet, we still ask them to come here, and at the same time, ask them to leave. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me, and um… You know, “whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers,” and these seemed like the least of my brothers, right now. A lot of people are “least brothers” right now, with the economy so hard, and I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish it or anything like that. But migrant workers suffer, and have no rights.