National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Blog & Updates

Update: Take Our Jobs

September 23, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger



Immigration restrictionists tell us that immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, are “stealing American jobs.”  This assertion is a favorite during economic hard times.


Our friends over at United Farm Workers have been conducting a sort of laboratory experiment to test this hypothesis.  They have a Web site set up to assist Americans in finding a job as a farmworker.  Today they posted an update on the experiment.


Since the Web site was created, there have been 3,000,000 visitors.  Of those, just 8,600 have expressed an interest in seeking employment.  Perhaps many of the rest find the job description unappealing:


“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.”


Of the 8,600, only seven have stuck with the process and been placed in a job in agriculture.  The union is working with another 368 to train and place them, if they stick it out.


This admittedly unscientific experiment nevertheless provides an interesting glimpse past the rhetoric into the reality of agriculture in the U.S. today.  As the union notes,


“…there are more politicians and finger-pointers interested in blaming undocumented farm workers for America's unemployment crisis then there are unemployed Americans who are willing to harvest and cultivate America's food.”


A very large proportion of America’s agricultural workforce is undocumented.  Legislation has been introduced to offer these immigrants a chance to legalize their status.  The legislation, known as AgJOBS, has been crafted in collaboration between farmworker advocates and growers.  Both have a stake in protecting and stabilizing this work force.  So do we: if our immigration laws are not reformed, we can look forward to having more of our food grown elsewhere.


Tomorrow, the House Immigration Subcommittee will hold a hearing, Protecting America’s Harvest, where these issues will be discussed, and practical solutions explored.  At the hearing, Arturo Rodriguez, President of United Farm Workers, will discuss the Take Our Jobs experiment. 


Also testifying will be one American who went through the process and worked in an agricultural job (for a day)—Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.  On his show last night, he aired an interview with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee, just prior to his stint as farmworker.  (You can see that interview here.  His farmworker experience will be aired during tonight’s show.)


The hearing will be Webcast, and you should be able to find a link to it on this page of the House Judiciary Committee’s Web site.

Image by Flickr user Faith Unlimited.

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