Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Legalize Food Production, Protect Migrant Farm Workers

Much of the food grown in this country is grown by workers with no legal right to be here.

This is something that we, as a nation, should be intensely ashamed of. Not because they're here, but because they generally lack any sort of legal protection, since any abuse they may receive on the job is impossible for them to report without risking deportation. From a less humanitarian perspective, there are communities throughout the country where these migrant workers and their families can add additional load to the services of the region, without necessarily improving the funding of those services. This tends to be more of an issue for education, which is generally funded primarily by property taxes, and there is no such thing as a migrant homeowner.

Fact is, it really doesn't matter whether or not you think that migrant farm workers should be granted amnesty. They need it. There are too many of them. And most American's won't work these jobs anyway, as evidenced by the United Farm Worker's Take Our Jobs campaign, which has had less than two dozen Americans even try their hands at working on the farm.

Now, I don't blame people for not taking part in this campaign. I certainly haven't, and my experience with helping Catherine maintain our garden plot makes me pretty certain that I don't want to be a professional farm worker. Small scale hobby farm stuff? Yeah, but I'm never going to be a commercial producer.

There has been one prominent American who took part in this challenge. Stephen Colbert, of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, took up this challenge, and presented his two part "Fallback Position" segment where he worked as a migrant farm worker.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Fallback Position - Migrant Worker - Zoe Lofgren
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Fallback Position - Migrant Worker Pt. 2
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

Okay, yes, Colbert is a clown. Yes, he spends a lot of time making jokes. But that's his job, he's on Comedy Central. But more so, he's demonstrating that these jobs are hard, backbreaking experiences, and the people working them are very hard working people, regardless of their legal status.

However, what really impressed me was the Congressional testimony he references in the second video, presented here by C-SPAN.

Ultimately, we need these people. They work useful, necessary jobs, that most Americans don't want. Should immigration reform protect American's options to work these jobs? I think so. And it's entirely possible that with the higher wages that legal protection is likely to offer, more American's might consider them.

If there is a downside to this, it's that food prices are liable to rise. But the human cost born by migrant farm workers is one that, I think, is higher than the potential hit to my pocketbook.