Republican California Rep. Devin Nunes, President Donald Trump's “stooge” at the head of the House Intelligence Committee, has taken a hardline stance on illegal immigration while touting his own California farming background. He also appears to be a hypocrite and a liar, according to an explosive investigation by Esquire's Ryan Lizza.
Nunes, who was once a supporter of amnesty for undocumented immigration, has become an immigration hawk in the age of Trump. His “alternative” news website regularly attacks Democrats for not supporting ICE raids while touting the agency's aggressive tactics.
Immigration is a big part of his reelection campaigns in California, as is his image as a local farmer, which he frequently cites.
“The Dairy Farmer Overseeing U. S. Spies and the Russia Hack Investigation,” read a 2017 Daily Beast headline about the congressman, whose family immigrated to Tulare, California and saved up enough money toiling to buy a 640-acre farm decades earlier.
“It’s 105 degrees as I stand with Rep. Devin Nunes on his family’s dairy farm,” a Wall Street Journal columnist wrote in July from Tulare.
Nunes' description on California ballots describes him as a “farmer,” a label that was challenged in court by constituents who questioned his farming credentials.
It was questioned for good reason – not only is Nunes not an actual farmer, but the family farm that he continues to brag about in news articles was also sold twelve years ago before his family relocated to Iowa.
“Devin; his brother, Anthony III; and his parents, Anthony Jr., and Toni Dian sold their California farmland in 2006. Anthony Jr. and Toni Dian, who has also been the treasurer of every one of Devin’s campaigns since 2001, used their cash from the sale to buy a dairy eighteen hundred miles away in Sibley, a small town in northwest Iowa where they—as well as Anthony III, Devin’s only sibling, and his wife, Lori—have lived since 2007,” Lizza writes. “Devin’s uncle Gerald still owns a dairy back in Tulare, which is presumably where The Wall Street Journal’s reporter talked to Devin, and Devin is an investor in a Napa Valley winery, Alpha Omega, but his immediate family’s farm—as well as his family—is long gone.”
Not only is Nunes' claim to be a “farmer” highly dubious, but the investigation also discovered a much deeper issue – and staggering hypocrisy.
The family's farm is located in a district represented by the notoriously anti-immigrant zealot Rep. Steve King. Nunes, who has stood by Trump's own hardline stance, has traveled to campaign for King in his family's district. King, whose fervent anti-immigrant rhetoric is always at the forefront of his campaigns, has consistently won his reelections with more than 60 percent of the vote.
This is mind-boggling considering how reliant the area is on farming and who works those farming jobs.
“Eighty percent of the Latino population out here in northwest Iowa is undocumented,” a local dairy farmer estimated to Lizza. “It would be great if we had enough unemployed Americans in northwest Iowa to milk the cows. But there’s just not. We have a very tight labor pool around here.”
“Most workers start at fourteen or fifteen dollars an hour,” the farmer explained. “If dairies had to use legal labor, they would likely have to raise that to eighteen or twenty dollars, and many dairies wouldn’t survive.”
When Lizza tried to speak with Nunes' family, he was aggressively told the get lost. Jerry Nelson, a reporter for the local Daily Star, explained, “They are immigrants and Devin is a very strong supporter of Mr. Trump, and Mr. Trump wants to shut down all of the immigration, and here is his family benefiting from immigrant labor.”
Nunes' family literally began to stalk Lizza around town and urge others not to speak with him, he wrote, explaining these pro-Trump, pro-King Republicans had a palpable fear of being the victims of the very ICE raids they helped empower.
A source who claimed to provide the Nunes farm with undocumented workers estimated the number of documented citizens working the dairy farms in the area was “none. One percent, maybe.”
Multiple other sources corroborated the claim that undocumented immigrants worked the Nunes farm.
“Who is going to go work in the dairy?” the man asked. “Who? Tell me who? If people have papers, they are going to go to a good company where you can get benefits, you can get Social Security, you can get all the stuff. Who is going to go [work in the dairy] to make fourteen dollars an hour doing that thing without vacation time, without 401(k), without everything?”