In our first meeting of the "Illegal People" book group we had a really great crowd. The group consisted of a mix of social workers, teachers, lawyers, activists, and others. There was a huge range of experiences that people bring to this group and it is interesting to hear people's perspectives. At the beginning of the meeting people shared what brought them to the group and what they found intriguing about the book. We spent some time in a discussion about neoliberalism and what it looks like in the US and abroad. In small groups people considered the causes of migration and the experiences low-wage immigrant workers in the United States. We concluded with a conversation on how the capitalist quest for low wage workers benefits from a political system that creates classes of people with few rights. We also had an interesting conversation about how this idea intersects with the public's view on who is "worthy" to get immigration papers and who is not.
At our second discussion of "Illegal People," we delved into the ways that undocumented Latino and Black workers have been systematically divided and pit against each other by the agricultural, construction, and hospitality industries. The group discussed how white supremacist capitalism causes this divide-and-conquer strategy between workers, and how we might be able to push back through effective organizing. We also reviewed Philly's successful local anti-deportation campaign, highlighting the connections between mass deportation and mass incarceration. The conversation was powerful in part because of the wide array of backgrounds: teachers, community organizers, parents, professors, social workers, and more. It was a thought provoking discussion that left us ready for more!
In the last meeting of the group we discussed the impact of immigration policies on documented immigrant workers, and also on low-wage citizen workers in the US. It was a lively conversation in which many people included personal and professional experiences to enrich the dialogue. Nicole spoke about many of the current immigrant rights organizing campaigns going on in Philadelphia, and another group member spoke about programs within the School District of Philadelphia to support immigrant and ESOL students. We ended the meeting with an action brainstorm about how people can support immigrant rights work both within and outside of schools. We will present these ideas at the WE book group closing meeting on September 1st.