Annmarie Fertoli, Associate Producer, WNYC News
Annmarie Fertoli is an Associate Producer at WNYC, working with the afternoon news team to produce All Things Considered.
Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert joined democratic debate in a new way today, by testifying before a House subcommittee discussing immigration and farm labor.
"America's farms are presently far too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables. Now the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables," he said. "And, if you look at the recent obesity statistics, you'll see that many Americans have already started."
Colbert was asked to testify by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, about his one-day stint working on a farm. "This brief experience gave me some small understanding of why so few Americans are clamoring to begin an exciting career as seasonal migrant field workers," Colbert said. "Maybe the easier answer is just to have scientists develop vegetables that pick themselves. The genetic engineers over at Fruit of the Loom have made great strides at human-fruit hybrids. The point is, we have to do something, because I am not going back out there."
Colbert's opening testimony drew some laughs -- and looks of annoyance -- from lawmakers. But he broke character when asked, by Representative Judy Chu of California, why he chose to focus on these particular issues.
"I like talking about people who don't have any power," Colbert said. "And this seemed like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don't have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here, and at the same time, ask them to leave."
Colbert spent a day as a migrant worker as part of the United Farm Workers' "Take Our Jobs" campaign, after having the group's president, Arturo Rodriguez, on his show this summer. The group advocates for workers in agricultural industries nationwide.