Washington, Sep 25, Noted US comedy show host Stephen Colbert turned the US Congress into his stage to deliver a sarcastic testimony, leaving the members in splits – on party lines.
The popular host of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central told members of a House judiciary subcommittee Friday that he hoped to bring attention to the undocumented farm workers’ hardships with his testimony.
“America’s farms are presently far too dependent on immigrant labour to pick our fruits and vegetables,” he told the panel, keeping in character with the arch-conservative he plays on television.
“Now, the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And if you look at the recent obesity statistics, many Americans have already started.”
Colbert told the panel that “we all know there is a long tradition of great nations importing foreign workers to do their farm work”.
“After all,” he said, “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.”
Republicans on the subcommittee were not impressed or swayed by Colbert’s appearance.
“It’s an insult to me to hear that Americans won’t do this work,” said Republican Steve King, arguing that the hiring of undocumented workers is driving down wages and taking jobs away from those in the country legally.
The notion that there’s little competition for jobs between citizens and undocumented workers is a “myth”, said his colleague Lamar Smith.
But Democrats were quick to challenge the Republicans’ claims.
While Americans will take tough jobs, “study after study” shows that “people would rather have no income and no welfare than take the back-breaking jobs that the migrant farm worker has to do every single day”, said Democrat member Howard Berman.
“Were it not for immigrant farm workers in this country, there would be no seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables,” he said.
Democrat chairperson of the subcommittee Zoe Lofrgen, at whose invitation the comedy show host testified, said she didn’t think Colbert’s appearance was a stunt.
“Celebrities add pizzazz to an issue,” she said. “I hope his celebrity will bring attention” to this one.