Home > Spotlight Analysis > Colbert calls for immigration reform; Americans with him on path to citizenship, divided about jobs 
Colbert calls for immigration reform; Americans with him on path to citizenship, divided about jobs 
Topics: Immigration

Today comedian Stephen Colbert appeared before a House sub-committee to discuss immigration reform. His testimony, delivered tongue-in-cheek, contained a serious message. According to the Washington Post:

His message: Working on a farm is so hard that Americans don’t want to do it, so immigration and labor laws should be reformed to allow illegal crop workers a clean path to citizenship. …

Fully in character, Colbert continued, “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, sliced by a Guatemalan . . . and served in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian.”

According to a survey on religion, values, and immigration reform conducted earlier this year by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a solid majority of Americans agree with him on providing path to citizenship for undocumented workers. When asked to choose between comprehensive immigration reform and typical opposing arguments, Americans prefer a comprehensive approach that includes a path to citizenship by a margin of 2 to 1.  In addition, more than 8-in-10 (84%) Americans agree that the economy would benefit if illegal immigrants became tax-paying citizens.

Colbert also participated in the United Farm Workers’ “Take Our Jobs” program, which is designed to show that undocumented immigrants are not taking jobs that Americans want.  The program has found that out of 8,600 inquiries for jobs, only 7 have taken a full-time farm-working job. Despite the few takers in the program, Americans are roughly divided in their opinions on whether illegal immigrants take jobs Americans want (50% agree, 48% disagree). Not surprisingly, Americans with lower educational attainment and income are more likely to believe that illegal immigrants take jobs Americans want. Majorities of most major religious groups–including Catholics, white mainline Protestants and the unaffiliated–disagree that illegal immigrants take jobs Americans want (53%, 54% and 59% respectively). White evangelicals are the only group of religious Americans with a majority agreeing that illegal immigrants take jobs wanted by American workers (59%).

Colbert spoke on behalf of the AgJOBS bill, which, according to Congress.org

would allow 2 million farm workers to come to the U.S. as guest workers and eventually become legal residents.

Read more from the Public Religion Research Institute survey on religion, values, and immigration reform. The survey was funded by the Ford Foundation.