In response to the anti-immigrant rhetoric that “undocumented immigrants steal American jobs,” the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) is asking restrictionists and the unemployed to walk the walk…all the way to the farm. Last week, the UFW launched a new campaign, Take Our Jobs, which “aims at hiring U.S. citizens and legal residents to fill jobs that often go to undocumented farm workers.” On the campaign website, the UFW allows applicants to sign up under the “I Want to be a Farm Worker” banner and then sends their information to a state job bank “indicating their interest to work in agriculture.” Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” is expected to plug the campaign on July 8.

As the Associated Press points out, while the campaign’s premise may be satirical, the need for immigration reform is serious business. Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, said that farm workers have had enough of the punditry and anti-immigrant rhetoric targeting immigrants for unemployment.

Farm workers are tired of being blamed by politicians and anti-immigrant activists for taking work that should go to Americans and dragging down the economy.

The reality is farmworkers who are here today aren’t taking any American jobs away. They work in often unbearable situations. I don’t think there will be many takers, but the offer is being made. Let’s see what happens.

The truth is that America’s agricultural industry depends on immigrant labor—many of whom are undocumented. According to agricultural labor economist James Holt, less than 2% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in farm work. However, more than 550,000 U.S. farmers hire workers to fill more than 3 million agricultural jobs each year—jobs where workers are often underpaid and work under harsh conditions. Which is why the United Farm Workers is advocating for the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security (AgJOBS) Act (part of the REPAIR proposal outlined by Sens. Schumer, Reid, Menendez, Feinstein, and Leahy back in April) which would “provide a legal, stable labor supply and help ensure that farmworkers are treated fairly” through an earned legalization program.

All satire aside, the UFW’s “Take Our Jobs” campaign’s take home message is that the continued anti-immigrant rhetoric blaming immigrants for stealing American jobs—besides being untrue—only undermines the larger problems within our immigration system and agriculture industry. Keeping undocumented farm workers undocumented only exacerbates the problems of poor wages and working conditions and results in weak bargaining power for all workers. The UFW is hoping that the realization “that the food we all eat—at home, in restaurants and workplace cafeterias— comes to us from the labor of undocumented farm workers” is enough to motivate the American public to support workers’ rights.

So the next time you hear someone say, “Oh, well, you know, those illegal immigrants are stealing American jobs,” kindly direct him/her to where he/she can test their work ethic in America’s agricultural fields.

Photo by tpmartins.