The LA Times published an interesting editorial today about AgJOBS:
"A particularly bizarre moment in the immigration debate came and went almost unnoticed. At the same House subcommittee hearing at which Stephen Colbert testified, Rep. Steve King (R- Iowa), who opposes legalization for the undocumented workers who plant, pick, harvest and package a substantial portion of the nation's crops and produce, offered this alternative: Americans could simply wean themselves from fruits and vegetables. Salad, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, etc., cannot be all that important to human health, King suggested, huffing "I'm wondering how the Eskimos got along all those centuries without fruits and vegetables!"
"A diet of whale blubber is certainly a novel idea, but it seems unlikely to be embraced. The reality is that Americans need to eat produce, and for that to happen, farmers need a reliable supply of skilled workers — and laborers need consistent employment and to be protected from exploitation. That's what passing AgJOBS legislation would accomplish. The Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Howard L. Berman (D- Valley Village) would create a pilot program to give certain immigrant farmworkers (some here legally, others not) the opportunity to obtain a "blue card" — a temporary work permit — and, later, the possibility of permanent legal residency. It would also provide blue cards to spouses and minor children of such farmworkers and modify the current H-2A guest-worker visa program. It is not a cure for all that ails agriculture or national immigration policy, but it is a decent compromise.
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"Unfortunately, it is not likely that AgJOBS will be passed in the near future. King's Eskimo diet musings, while laughable, are probably an accurate indicator of just how far congressional Republicans are willing to contort logic to thwart sensible immigration reform. Bring on the whale blubber."
"It's such a common refrain in the illegal immigration debate that it's become a punch line in jokes: Illegal immigrants do the work most Americans won't do.
"Many of you don't buy it. In fact, you wonder aloud how in the world can we legalize illegal immigrants when so many American citizens are out of work?
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"It's just not something that most Americans are going to pack up their bags and move here to do," said farmer Steve Fortin, who pays $10.25 an hour to foreign workers to trim strawberry plants for six weeks each summer at his nursery near the [California-]Nevada border. He has spent $3,000 this year ensuring domestic workers have first dibs on his jobs in the sparsely populated stretch of the state, advertising in newspapers and on an electronic job registry."
Photo: Benjamin Reynosa, 49, of Orange Cove, picks table grapes near Fowler, Calif. As the economy tanked over the past two years, the immigration debate has focused on whether immigrants are taking jobs Americans want. Here, amid the sweltering melon fields and vineyards of the nation's top farm state, where one of every eight people is still out of a job, the answer is no.
Washington Post Dan Zeik reports on Stephen Colbert's testimony before Congress:
"The comic pundit Stephen T. Colbert, with tongue in cheek and fully in character, blustered his way through a four-minute speech about immigration reform in front of a House subcommittee Friday morning, a fake blowhard before a panel of real pontificators. His message: Working on a farm is so hard that Americans don't want to do it, so immigration and labor laws should be reformed to allow illegal crop workers a clean path to citizenship.
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"I'm a free-market guy," Colbert said when it was his turn to speak. "Normally I'd leave this to the invisible hand of market. . . . But the invisible hand has moved farm work to Mexico" because of lack of available labor in the United States. If Congress passes the AgJOBS Act -- intended to provide legal farm labor and protect the rights of immigrant workers -- "Americans may consider taking jobs once conditions are better," Colbert said. "I trust both sides will work on this together in best interests of the American people -- as you always do," he said in conclusion. "U.S.A., Number 1."
Colbert Report -- 1st of 2 segments on migrant farm workers. Colbert interviews Rep. Zoe Lofgren regarding migrant farm workers and the jobs they do for Americans that we don't want to do for ourselves.
"Remember when UFW President Arturo Rodriguez was on the Colbert Show on July 7? Stephen Colbert committed to come work in the fields and take a farm worker’s job. Well he did! And his "Take Our Jobs" episodes will be airing this week on “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central. The first episode, where he will interview Congresswoman Lofgren on the need to reform our nation’s broken immigration system is scheduled to air on Wednesday, Sept 22, 11:30 PM/10:30 CDT (in most areas-check your local listings). Then the next day, Thursday, Sept 23, you can see Stephen Colbert as he works in the fields."
"Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert will be testifying before Congress on Friday about immigration during a hearing called "Protecting America's Harvest."
"Colbert will be appearing with United Farm Workers (UFW) President Arturo S. Rodriguez before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. In August, the comedian spent a day working at a corn and vegetable farm in New York state after Rodriguez appeared on his show to discuss UFW's "Take Our Jobs" campaign.
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"The "Take our Jobs" episode covering Colbert's day in the fields will air on "The Colbert Report" tonight, Sept. 22. It will also feature an interview with Rep. Zoe Lofregn (D-Calif.) on immigration reform. On Thursday, agricultural workers will be visiting congressional offices on Capitol Hill to lobby for the AgJOBS bill, which would grant undocumented farm workers currently in the United states the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture."
Reportedly, some Immigration rights advocates are moving from Comprehensive Immigration Reform to "Plan B" that pushes for immediate enactment of the DREAM Act and AgJOBS. I've written a good deal about the DREAM Act, but haven't spent much time on AgJOBS. Here is a brief summary of the legislation as it is currently proposed.
The provisions of the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2009 (AgJOBS) provide for temporary resident status for workers who can prove performance of agricultural employment in the U.S. for 150 work days or 863 hours during the 24-month period ending December 31, 2008. Temporary status holders may apply for permanent residence after a designated time of continued agricultural employment after the enactment of the legislation. Spouses and minor children of workers who are present in the U.S. could also remain legally in the U.S.
Also included in the legislation is a streamlining of the H-2A temporary agricultural worker's program .
Photo: Congresswoman Lofgren joins farm workers picking strawberries in the fields as part of the UFW's Take Our Job campaign
Some immigrant rights groups are shifting the strategy in their so-far unsuccessful push to overhaul immigration law: They're calling the new tactic the "down payment" approach.
"Plan B" centers on lobbying hard for the passage of two bills: AgJobs and the Dream Act. AgJobs is a compromise between farmworker unions and agriculture business groups, which was negotiated more than five years ago and is intended to provide legal farm labor and protect the rights of immigrant workers. The Dream Act would give some undocumented students the ability to apply for permanent residency. Both bills have had Republican support in the past