A few weeks ago, to inspire realistic discussion of immigration reform, the United Farm Workers launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign called Take Our Jobs — a website where American citizens can sign up for work in the field. Experienced farm workers were standing by to train legal residents and place them on farms in California, Florida, and elsewhere.

Because all the posturing and gasbaggery about “illegals taking American jobs” avoids one simple, difficult fact: “Americans do not want to work in the fields. It’s very difficult work that requires a lot of expertise, and the conditions are horrid! I was in the field on Tuesday with great workers out in Delano, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley, and it was 110 degrees!” as Arturo Rodriguez, president of the UFW, told Stephen Colbert last night.

“On the plus side, they get all the lettuce they can eat?” replied Colbert.

Only three Americans have taken the “Take Our Jobs” dare and are working in the fields, said Rodriguez.

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“Make that four,” said Colbert, to much applause. “Is there a pension?”

This we cannot wait to see. Kudos to the comedian for shining a spotlight on one of the most under-reported and unpopular foundations of America’s cheap-food system. We desperately need immigration reform, so that the fieldworkers who harvest the vast bulk of the fresh fruit and vegetables in this country can work safely without fear of deportation, and demand better wages and working conditions. Maybe then Americans might consider competing with them for jobs.

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Arturo Rodriguez
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