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I've just finished watching the full two hour House of Representatives subcommittee hearing.  Although I'm a certified political junkie, I watched for one reason, to see Colbert testifying in his character of right wing pundit. I read the reviews and saw the clips on the news, while describing his satire, ignored the more important story.  

At the beginning of the hearing, as has been widely reported Representative John Conyers asked Colbert to leave, to "remove himself" as he had served his purpose of getting the public interested.
I'm glad he didn't comply, as it was only to watch his humor that I, and my wife, came to understand the immigration issue at a deeper level.

There were three witnesses other then Colbert who spoke, and the most valuable to me was an apple farmer.  He conveyed the bind he was in as a businessman, whose product is now competing with similar ones imported from Chile that are keeping selling prices depressed.  If he was denied the "unauthorized employee" labor pool, the higher wages would have to be incorporated into his pricing structure, which quite simply would put him out of business.

This was confirmed by the other witnesses, if not directly. He also pointed out that, unlike other manufacturers, the profit margin is low and all farmers work on credit that is due and payable at harvest.  If labor were not to be available, as it wasn't for a while because regulations allowing in Jamaican workers were held up, the crop would rot in a few days, and he would be bankrupt.

There are several illusions that are promoted by the two parties on this issue.  On the Democratic side there is the assertion that a comprehensive immigration bill, with a "path to citizenship" which, like it or not does entail amnesty for the criminal act* of illegally entering the country, would be a one time permanent fix.  What could lead to this conclusion?  It is modeled after the bill passed during the Reagan administration that was also touted a one timer.  

It is agreed that these jobs are the lowest level of employment, and if those who hold it come close to achieving the American Dream, their children will aspire and achieve something better.  So, as the 1986 bill only worked for a while, so this one will also not be stable.

America imports almost all that we use, our clothing, appliances and cars.  Food is something different.  We spend hundreds of billions on our military, which enables us to destroy countries at will.  It does not give us the power to conquer these countries, to occupy them to our benefit.  

This is what Japan did in the early 30s, not because they were evil, but they were dependent on others to provide their island with the vital sustenance of food. If our food production were to go the way of televisions, clothing, and other industries that are now off shore, we would be vulnerable to economic sanctions or to blockades. We could destroy such a country, but we couldn't make them feed us.  

It turns out the the country that would benefit if our agriculture industry were to be lost is, you guessed it, China.  They are able to produce at lower prices the apples and other crops now made economically viable only because of low cost labor, that is low cost because these people are not here legally, and have few options.

The chairperson of the committee, Zoe Lofgren, who had been an immigration lawyer before a legislator, had some genuine insights, beyond realizing the exposure value of having Colbert as a witness.  She pointed out the employment multiplier effect of each illegal worker.  "Upstream" in food processing and "downstream" in services, housing and sustaining these workers.  This has to be balanced with the social costs of this system of accepting the de facto necessity of the current system. Is the public subsidy, real even though denied by many, worth the manifest benefits if this system keeps this vital industry, and others, in this country?

It would be nice if I could tie this together with a bow, one that would ring true to this audience preferably, since I have to read the comments.  But the issue is actually even more thorny that I had realized, and I learned this only because of a comedian, who got me to watch two hours of an intense conversation.  He made all the more real when he blew his cover by explaining his involvement in this issue because of his concern for,  "those who are the most vulnerable in our society, none being more so than those who pick our food. We need what they do, yet we want to arrest for doing it."

You have to watch the entire hearing, but by the end we get to know the real Steven Colbert, a caring and perceptive human being; and he will never live it down.
*It is often argued that those who surreptitiously come to this country from Mexico are not criminals, only committing a civil infraction.  This would make the terms "illegal" and "amnesty" inaccurate distortions.

It turns out that such people have committed misdemeanors, a class of crime, as described in this article:

Section 1325 [of Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter II, Part VIII]. [U.S. Code as of: 01/06/03]

Improper entry by alien

(a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection;
misrepresentation and concealment of facts
Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States
at any time or place other than as designated by immigration
officers, ...........shall, for the first
commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or
imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent
commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or
imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.

(b) Improper time or place; civil penalties

Based on these facts, the term "illegal" is appropriate to define the immigration status of such persons, as is the word "amnesty" to describe the removal of existing punishments for such crimes, which is the definition of the word.  In this case, unlike use of the term "death" to describe taxes on only a small subset of those who die, it is the left that is inappropriately politicizing our common language.  
Here's an interesting articlefrom Vanity Fair, on Steve Colbert, the man and the character

Originally posted to ARODB on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 10:28 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have a question about the assertions... (7+ / 0-) the apple farmer.

    Chile is deep in the southern hemisphere and has opposing "harvest" periods.  This may be good to make produce available off-season, but would a US grower (especially for something like tree born fruit that has a set season) actually compete with Chile?

    Will vote for Pie.

    by DawnG on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 10:34:05 PM PDT

    •  I live in apple country, (16+ / 0-)

      Gravenstein apples to be exact, and storage of these apples is easy.  Kinda like potatoes.  Put them in the correct place and with the correct environment and you have a pretty good crop almost year round.

      We need to teach people that the environment has a direct bearing on our own benefit. Dalai Lama

      by maggiejean on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 10:45:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  stored as opposed to fresh? (0+ / 0-)

        I'm no farmer, but I am a consumer and that sounds awful.  It would also explain why fruits and vegetables are tasteless when it isn't summer.

        Don't tax the rich, starve the poor.

        by dkmich on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 03:25:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Most people do not buy Gravensteins as apples (5+ / 0-)

          This type of apple is mostly used for apple sauce and apple juice.  It is wonderful in apple pies as well but rarely sold outside it's region as apples.
          I had a gravenstein apple tree and would "put up" apple sauce and sliced apples.  We also dehydrated them for snacks.

          And no, that is not why fruits and vegetables have no taste.  They have no taste because you are buying the cheap crap from far away instead of supporting your local growers.  Yeah that tomato may cost you a few cents more but it was picked yesterday or this morning and not last week.  Nor was it forced in a hothouse.

          It's bull that the American farm is gone and replaced by corporations.  Yeah the big ones maybe but I bet your town or city has a farmers market.  We have more than one.  Local farmers bring their crops to be sold one or two days out of the week or there are stands that carry local food every day.  

          When my children were smaller, I bought my fruits and vegetables from such a stand.  I bought my eggs from a chicken ranch that sold the "checks" eggs (less perfect) for a discount by the flat.  The chickens were free range.  My meat was butchered and packaged at the store I bought it at by a real butcher.  Be forewarned though, locally grown fruits and vegetables will not look "perfect".  They aren't supposed to look perfect!

          The best way to initiate change is to vote with your wallet.  Support your local farmers and ranchers.  Not only will you get better, more nutritious and taster food, you will stimulate your local economy.  

          You can even grow some of your own.  We grew tomatoes and lemon cucumbers and of course zucchini.  We also had other fruit trees.  The children loved to go out and gather the tomatoes and cucumbers.  We also had blackberries, they grow like weeds here.  

          Even in cities, you can grow stuff on a patio in containers or find a community garden that allows you a small plot to plant in. I think it is important to teach our children where their food comes from and that they can grow their own.

          •  We have a great farm with a market on site (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            arodb, belinda ridgewood

            less than 4 miles from our home.  In the summer, we get our fruit and vegetables from there.  During the winter, we shop at Poppa Joes.  It is expensive, not as good as summer fresh, but a heck of a lot better than box chain grocery stores.  

            We use to grow tomatoes and basil each summer for a tomato salad (mmmm good), but we have deer and they eat everything.  They even come up on our back deck to eat from the bird feeder.   We had to remove it, and obviously give up our home grown stuff.  

            As I child, I use to visit my uncles farm.  He had a peach orchard.  We would ride in the wagon behind the tractor and eat a million peaches out of the bushel baskets and fresh from the trees.  We'd end up a sticky and picky (peach fuzz) mess from face to toe, but boy, were they good.  

            Don't tax the rich, starve the poor.

            by dkmich on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 05:13:27 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  It appears that you are recommending (0+ / 0-)

            eating fresh produce only when it is locally produced and in season, and none at all for most of the year. Do you really mean that?

            "Too big to fail" is not too big to jail.

            by Angela Quattrano on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 08:51:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Fresh as opposed to canned, frozen, etc. (0+ / 0-)

           I don't think of "fresh" as "just picked today".  Frozen, canned, processed - these are what I think of as the opposite of fresh.  "Stored" as in sitting in a cool, dry place (or whatever is appropriate for that produce) is still fresh.

    •  He used Chile as an example... (6+ / 0-)

      no one brought up your point.  But there are other countries with cheaper costs in this hemisphere, namely china.  And there are apples that can be harvested in different seasons that don't need the temperate conditions of "Delicious" and "Macintosh"

      It was not discussed at this level, however. Suggest taking the time to watch the hearing, it was worthwhile.

    •  Apples can be stored for 4 months or more (6+ / 0-)

      if done properly.

  •  stop making it a crime to cross the border (7+ / 0-)

    & you have no more "illegal immigrant" problem. you've got maybe a hundred million people in this country who are "illegal" because they smoked a criminal substance, our last three presidents were "illegal." anybody who wants to live peaceably, work & pay taxes is okay with me. enough already.

    Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. The Gita 3.21

    by rasbobbo on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 10:45:47 PM PDT

    •  Free trade necessitates (4+ / 0-)

      free movement of labor

      Otherwise, everything gets out of balance.

      •  Doesn't work, especially now... (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TracieLynn, wader, Sychotic1, lotlizard, nzanne

        that we have expanded the social benefits that accrue to every citizen.  It is no accident that those countries with the most expansive social benefits have the most rigid immigration restrictions.

        You virtually can not become a citizen of countries such as Switzerland or Denmark, as who in the world wouldn't want to go there.  

        •  what does citizenship have to do with the (0+ / 0-)

          crime of being?

          Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. The Gita 3.21

          by rasbobbo on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 11:42:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yep lets just merge all the Americas into.... (3+ / 0-)

            ...into one big banana republic under the corporate globalists. That will solve all our problems. Then the one percenters with all the money can play the various races and classes against one another so as to distract from the fact they are fucking everyone. Not everybody is stupid enough to buy this Neo/Liberal/Conservative crap that is a race to the bottom for all but a few.

            Since inception of "Globalism" the gains of generations of Liberal policy and the most successful middle classes in history have been wiped out by a few greed pricks selling their version of world brotherhood that is literally the slavery of banana republicanism and new royalty for a very small management ownership class.

            If you believe that doing away with borders is not part of this process then you are dumb as a rock.

            The Mexican people ought to revolt and kill the fifty-six or so families that have ruled Mexico the turn of the Twentieth Century and create a society that serves their needs, but that is not going to happen because of few mouthy liars claiming the brotherhood of man as their rational want to import that system here and to the rest of the first world.

            I dislike some elements of nationalism but not enough to buy the lies of the Globalists who intend only economic rape, in a new form of Eighteenth Century imperialism that will destroy economic opportunity and democrat governments worldwide. Fuck the Globalists and any fools who think their rice bowls will be filled by helping them screw all the rest of the human population.

            All of this Neo-conservative/Neo-Liberal bullshit is about political and economic power for a new royalty based on corporate power and a worldwide Fascist system will be their product. And it will be done in the name of helping the world’s poor and disadvantaged  and progressive ism when it is actually a retreat to feudalism under and different demographic.

            The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool. George Santayana

            by Bobjack23 on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 12:59:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Insights within the anger.... (0+ / 0-)

              but try a new style, less gonzo and more reason.  Mix it up a bit.  What I got out of watching the hearing is that buzz matters.  I wouldn't have had the exposure if not for Colbert's schtict.  And what you have to say may be true, but rather than being funny, the anger shows hopelessness of there ever being any change.

              Nationalism is a hard sell, as much as showing the that the generosity of humanism is a mast for oligarchic control.

              You are on to something, worthy of a diary here, at the least.

            •  i'm pretty sure not every person in the u.s. (0+ / 0-)

              is claiming citizenship or claiming every benefit "that accrues to citizenship." that was my point, but i guess i'm "dumb as a rock." if you buy into jefferson's preamble to the declaration of independence, all men are created equal - think he misspoke & meant to say "all citizens?"
              i'd appreciate an explanation of why the alternative to the current system with such sterling features as; hundreds of border crossing deaths, exploitation & harassment of people who "look illegal" & incredibly wasteful use of police & detention personnel & facilities is some sort of hemispheric banana republic. cause i'm, you know, "dumb as a rock."
              the mexican people should throw off their oligarchic yoke? claro. how about us united statesians? do we not have a fraction of a percent of our population skimming the wealth & controlling our government? does the misdirection of blaming "illegals" further our pursuit of a society that serves our needs?
              you want to make a defense of our current system of criminalizing people for merely existing on our side of the border? make it. you want to justify the hysterical outrage that is driving political discourse here in arizona? make your case. i'll read it, you know, real slow like any dumb as a rock has to when trying to understand a super genius.

              Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. The Gita 3.21

              by rasbobbo on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 10:21:10 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Until recently in Switzerland there was a setup (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          … (perhaps it was only in one canton or a part of a canton) where would-be immigrants appeared individually, with a photo, on the ballot in the town where they were living.

          If a majority of the voters in your community didn't say "yes" to you specifically, you couldn't become a Swiss citizen.

          This supposedly made each immigrant responsible for their own behavior and individual reputation among the local citizenry, rather than being dealt with en masse.

          The system seemed to be working until in the late 1990s, after an influx of people fleeing the breakup of Yugoslavia, voters started saying "no" to everyone regardless of how qualified and well-integrated they were.

          The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

          by lotlizard on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 12:46:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Here in New England (4+ / 0-)

      the constant back and forth of French Canadians following jobs, family, whatever, was always just an accepted part of life, for a century or more.  I guess it's different once that sort of economic migration is done with non-white skin.

      American business is about maximizing shareholder value. You basically don't want workers. ~Allen Sinai

      by ActivistGuy on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 11:43:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Where this argument needs to be addressed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    sounds like it has more to do with "free trade" than with immigration.  If the apple farmers weren't forced to compete with third world countries when marketing their crops, they could afford to pay a living wage.

    Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

    by Sychotic1 on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 11:09:02 PM PDT

  •  I can remember as a kid (early 70's) that French (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    belinda ridgewood

    Canadians made a decent living picking crops in Ontario. One of my ex's grew up following the harvest from TX to MI. It is HARD F'N WORK!! Anybody who says otherwise is talking out their tailpipe. So how many people exactly signed up for "Take My Job" - not so much. We absoutely need an immigration policy that will allow folks willing to do the work - the ability to do so. We also need laws to protect them and pay them a living wage. If that means that the price of produce goes up - so f'n be it!!

    "I have ferrets with fins" - African Cichlids. And 3 pooties too! Ren, Stimpy (15 yrs) and Rocky (3 yrs)

    by mrsgoo on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 11:16:09 PM PDT

    •  "Take my job" was a publicity stunt (0+ / 0-)

      Not a serious effort to get Americans into farm jobs. There is a network that provides migrant farmworkers with transportation from job to job, housing, arrangements for the next job, and other things that are necessary to work migrant jobs. It was never intended to extend these to the unemployed if they were to inquire seriously.

      "Too big to fail" is not too big to jail.

      by Angela Quattrano on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 08:58:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is such a non-issue in Canada (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dkmich, arodb, belinda ridgewood

    We have all kinds of migrants come up to do stuff Canadians don't want to.  Mostly picking fruit.  It's no big deal.  We have laws that accomodate it as far as I know.  Then again the Mexicans don't seem as interested in lingering around during the winter up here as they do in the southern US.  So we don't have much of an illegal immigrant problem.

    •  It isn't just agriculture. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Landscapers, roofers, dry wallers, and cement workers in Michigan also employ a lot of what I would guess are illegal workers.   Like Canada, they don't seem to linger here in the winter either.

      The path to citizenship has been tried and failed as a tool to stop illegal immigration.  Soon, this country will be poorer than Mexico; and we'll all be sneaking into their country.  

      Don't tax the rich, starve the poor.

      by dkmich on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 03:31:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Reading the diary (4+ / 0-)

    I remembered a Vanity Fair profile written about Colbert (in 2007) entitled "The Man in the Irony Mask"

    From Vanity Fair

    "A Canadian is merely an unarmed American with health care." John Wing

    by marigold on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 01:22:26 AM PDT

  •  When you refer to "the real Stephen Colbert" (4+ / 0-)

    you mean when he spoke about people who have no power.  I was wondering if he would be able to maintain is "cover" for the whole thing.  It was fascinating to watch.  Also, I thought it was interesting that Conyers quickly withdrew his request (that Colbert leave the room) after hearing Ms. Swain's testimony.  She was a piece of work, IMO.

  •  OK. I just watched the entire 2:10, and... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dkmich, arodb, belinda ridgewood

    Peter King is a fucking arsehole.

    'If you want to be a hero, well just follow me.' - J. Lennon

    by Clive all hat no horse Rodeo on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 02:57:58 AM PDT

  •  Good thing Colbert didn't work here! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition." - Woody Allen

    by soros on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 03:15:19 AM PDT

  •  I'm interested just where in China (0+ / 0-)

    they're going to grow all the apples you fear will be exported to the US . . . .

    . . . .it's not like they have a lot of extra land to use for agricultural purposes

  •  Loved it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I did not watch the full hearing. As usual Colbert got his point across.

  •  Thanks for the diary. Agree with a lot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    except this:

    for the criminal act of illegally entering the country

    Not a criminal, but civil offense

    Unlawful presence in the United States is a civil violation of Federal Law, not a criminal offense. Approximately 75% of immigrants currently have permanent visas; almost one-half of the 25% who are undocumented overstayed their visa. (Department of Homeland Security. www.

  •  and, for the testimony he (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    actually submitted go here: (THANKS, REDDIT!)

    "My case is alter'd, I must work for my living." Moll Cut-Purse, The Roaring Girl - 1612, England's First Actress

    by theRoaringGirl on Sat Sep 25, 2010 at 05:35:46 AM PDT

  •  I live on eastern Long Island (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    about 75 miles from NYC. Now, you probably don't think of LI as an agricultural area, but we have many small farms, and they are reliant on people willing to do stoop labor.

    NYS is the fourth largest state in the nation in estimated number of undocumented immigrants. Suffolk County is the top county in agricultural sales. If 88% of farmers were to lose even less than 15% of their workforce this could equate to $174 million in lost farm revenue. (Dowling College Study)

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