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Who Wants to be a Farm Worker?

George W. Bush once famously said that many illegal / undocumented immigrants in America take the jobs that Americans don't want. There were two big problems with his statement: 1) It belied the oft-touted Right-wing talking point that illegal immigrants take work away from and drive down wages for Real Americans, and 2) Frankly, to the chagrin of many on the Right, he was right.

Legislation recently passed in Arizona basically equates looking Hispanic with probable cause for being an illegal alien, thus allowing the state via its police apparatus to stop people on the street who don't look American enough and demand to see papers or possibly detain them until citizenship / immigration status is determined. Tonight, Stephen Colbert invited Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA), to offer his unique insights on this touchy issue. Rodriquez readily stated that U.S. government sources estimated that about fifty percent of Amercia's farm worker are undocumented. However, in an effort to highlight the important role that these farm workers fill, and to highlight the reality that the vast majority of Americans have no desire to work in the fields, Rodriguez and the UFWA put out the call to America's vast pool of unemployed persons to join them on the farms. To help put America's unemployed on the path to back-breaking work and paltry paychecks, the UFWA set up a website where Real Americans can take their first steps by filling out the I Want to be a Farm Worker form.

Per the UFWA website:

"Farm workers are ready to welcome citizens and legal residents who wish to replace them in the field. We will use our knowledge and staff to help connect the unemployed with farm employers. Just fill out the form to the right and continue on to the request for job application."

According to Rodriguez, as of the taping of last night's Colbert Report, a whopping three (3) Real Americans have signed up to be farm workers. Colbert promptly offered his services, bringing the total to four (4). Maybe that's because the job description sucks: "Job may include using hand tools such as knives, hoes, shovels, etc. Duties may include tilling the soil, transplanting, weeding, thinning, picking, cutting, sorting & packing of harvested produce. May set up & operate irrigation equip. Work is performed outside in all weather conditions (Summertime 90+ degree weather) & is physically demanding requiring workers to bend, stoop, lift & carry up to 50 lbs on a regular basis." That, and according to a recent Associated Press article, not only do working conditions make the job title of farm worker one of the ten most dangerous in America, but there's also this: "Farm workers are excluded from federal overtime provisions, and small farms don't even have to pay the minimum wage. Fifteen states don't require farm labor to be covered by workers compensation laws."

Rodriguez noted that draconian laws aimed at ridding America of undocumented laborers might have dramatic unintended consequences. If significant numbers of migrant farm workers are unable to work Arizona's fields, who's going to harvest Arizona's crops? If the statistics supplied by Rodriguez are accurate, there might be a lot of crops left to rot in the sun. What's that old adage? - Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face?

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