Comic Relief

September 25, 2010

As many of you might have heard, Jon Stewart’s former sidekick, Stephen Colbert, decided to pay a visit to the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommitee on Thursday. You might ask yourself why I’ve decided to post a photograph of the congresswoman who invited him to testify at the hearing, instead of a picture of the man who was responsible for the media circus it generated.

Mostly for the purpose of identifying the source of this stupidity, which in this case, is Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. Unfortunately, her San Jose-based district-like nearly all the 50+ congressional districts in the state of California-has been gerrymandered to virtually ensure the re-election of its current incumbent. Not that a victory by either of her opponents, one who greets visitors to his website with a message written en Espanol, the other a self-described libertarian Republican, would be much of an improvement upon the status quo.

So while the prospect of replacing Rep. Lofgren with a slightly more serious representative recedes into the distance, I’d like to address the substance of the issue she and her colleagues sought to highlight through this carefully choreographed publicity stunt. Namely, the need to pass The Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act, or AgJobs. Now, despite its seemingly benign title and the effusive praise its supporters lavish upon this bill, this proposal is actually a pretty naked subsidy to large agribusinesses and one very decrepit labor union that rely upon cheap, imported labor from countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and other Latin American nations with a large pool of unskilled, potential economic exiles.

Interestingly, Cesar Chavez, the man whose name has been sanctified by his unworthy successors in the United Farm Workers, held views on immigration that were antithetical to those espoused by the supporters of legislation like AgJobs. In fact, he and his contemporaries in the UFW were trendsetters of sorts, preceding the Minutemen in citizen-policing our southern border by over three decades, as open borders demagogue Ruben Navarrette Jr. readily concedes.  The irony of the situation was not lost on the committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Steve King, who didn’t hesitate in pointing out the tireless efforts of Mr. Chavez to combat illegal aliens in his opening statement.

One of the reasons that Chavez was able to achieve such dramatic gains for his union’s members, and to galvanize such widespread political support for his efforts, is because the federal government ended the bracero program that had supplied farms with millions of Mexican migrant workers just as his organizing campaigns began to gather steam. Without the cessation of that guest-worker program, the farm workers in California would have never been able to make any progress, and they would have been working under conditions just as poor as the agricultural workers who do the same jobs today, something that advocates of this mini-amnesty masquerading as a jobs bill seem to have forgotten or willfully ignored in pursuit of their agenda.

What Arturo Rodriguez and the brain trust behind the Take Our Jobs campaign fail to realize, or more likely, simply refuse to acknowledge, is that the reason Americans are not working in this industry is because they have been priced out by cheap, unskilled, imported labor. It’s not that they don’t want to or are unable to perform strenuous physical labor, but that they are not able to bear cost of living a degraded, third world lifestyle, nor should they. The solution is obvious to anyone not in thrall to agribusiness lobbyists or UFW apparatchiks: stop importing poverty! End the work visa programs that have allowed American agriculture to become fat, lazy, and stupid, and have postponed much-needed innovations that would make farming more efficient, increase both the salary and working conditions for remaining farm workers, and make the stoop labor now required redundant.

Perhaps the fact that millions of unemployed Americans are desperately seeking work is amusing to certain members of Congress and “satirists,” but it’s no laughing matter to the rest of the country, which is why AgJobs needs to follow the Dream Act into the dustbin of failed legislative proposals.

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