So, I begin a new year of my critical-thinking labor workshop. “Where Do the People Go” is my class title.
This year, my union leaders gave me a special responsibility to design and teach a special, politically-charged subject: immigration and immigrants. I shall do my best to do justice to their expectations.
But in spite of being as neutral and objective as possible — as the facilitator of this eight-month-long, weekly class, packed with videos, fact sheets and intense brainstorming by 1,500+ workers, apprentices and industry leaders — I must say that branding a class of people “illegal” and treating them as “criminal” only because of their immigration status is quite strange, if not stupid, or opportunistic.
Especially in this so-called Land of Immigrants, a country that takes pride in its immigrant history and diversity.
Today’s America has become xenophobic, and we do not think or read anymore.
We say we are against illegal immigrants. Yet, we have no problems using their cheap, slave-like labor — in cities and villages. We do not mind shopping at Wal-Mart, taking our cars to garages, dining at exotic restaurants, hosting conferences in hotels, or buying chicken, apples and grapes at supermarkets, where practically all these places use the labor of paperless people living in extreme poverty.
Nobody knows, or worse, cares to know, why poor men, women and children migrate, leaving their countries and familiar surroundings behind, and risking their lives.
I doubt anybody has ever heard of the morgue we once visited in Arizona where they bring in unidentified dead bodies of people trying to cross the Sonoran desert. Nobody connects the dots between global warfare, economic aggression, foreign policy and immigration. Few understand the long history of the U.S. and rich European nations, when it comes to war, slavery, racism and the ongoing saga of economic exploitation.
Nobody knows how IMF and World Bank drive more people out of their countries to find food for their families. There is no serious discussion on mainstream media.
I do not want to take a side as the teacher in the classroom, but I do not mind showing my restrained passion for truth, equality and justice for the underprivileged, exploited immigrants.
After all, I have been one myself.
Sincerely, as always,
Brooklyn, New York
P.S. — By the way, watch this documentary. I just did. Powerful!