Guest post by Andrea Wise (b. 1989, USA), the Founder & Editor of Lua Pictures, a boutique post-production studio specializing in experimental, evocative, and intimate narrative nonfiction film. With a background in studio art, photojournalism, and documentary film, she's an editor working across multiple platforms to tell stories that matter. Her photographic work has been recognized by The National Photographers Association and College Photographer of the Year. Andrea is an alum of Eddie Adams Barnstorm XXVI, The Kalish Visual Editing Workshop, and The Mountain Workshops. She holds a Bachelor's with Honors in Studio Arts from Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut) and is a Master's Candidate in Photography at Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York). Her work can be found here. Andrea is on Twitter @andreawise_. This post is the fourth instalment of the Border Criminologies Themed Week on Visual Methodologies. Please click on the image for a larger view.
My mom could have been like them. At 11, she left the small island for America. But her parents and older sister found work to support their family. They lived in a safe neighborhood, studied, and became citizens when eligible. Not all were as privileged as my mother. They were returned.
RETURNED is an on-going portrait series of people deported back to Brava, the smallest of the Cape Verde Islands, where approximately one in 50 residents were returned to their birthplace―all from the United States. Their growing numbers represent what anthropologist Dr Heike Drotbohm refers to as "a new social minority" on the small island (population 5,000) where my mother was born and where my family dates back over six generations.
Like my mother, most of Brava's deportees legally immigrated to America, as children, with their families. Because they didn't become citizens, however, their various encounters with the legal system ultimately cost them their right to live in America. These people, many of whom had no memory of their birthplace, were returned to an impoverished island where they are rejected by their own people for what's viewed as having squandered the coveted opportunity to leave in pursuit of a better life. "You come here and even your own race they look down on you," says Daniel da Silva Santos, who left at age five and was returned at age 29.
As an American-born Cape Verdean, I see this story as an example of how intertwined issues of poverty, education, criminal justice, and immigration policy in the United States can have far reaching consequences, even into the smallest and most remote corners of the world. As Jack Soares (who left at age seven and was returned 24 years ago at age 23) told me, "This is like a life sentence."
"I was hoping to be doing good there [in America]," says Carlos José Baptista, 54, who left Brava when he was 12 years old and moved to New Britain, CT. "That's where I got into trouble." He says he was deported when he was 28 years old for 1st degree arson. Although he struggles with not having steady employment, he's occasionally able to make a little money by going grocery shopping for people.
"I'm from a poor family. We lived in the projects. I'm not going to ask my mom for $5,000 for a lawyer," says Enrique Vieira Garcia, 33, who left Brava for Pawtucket, RI when he was ten years old. He says he was deported when he was 21 for buying alcohol for a minor while on probation. Because immigration law in the United States doesn't entitle immigrants to counsel if they cannot afford their own, Enrique had no legal representation for his hearings. He was offered a deal to be deported back to Brava instead of facing jail time so he took the deal. "I thought Cabo Verde was like Florida... They told me the place was all green, then I get here its all dirt," he says. "A lot of us over here, we don't have family over here... My hope went down. I had nobody." When I asked him why he never became a US citizen, he says he just never knew to: "[My mom]'s got seven kids, by herself, in the projects, she never told us to." Henrique "Djicke" Gonçalves, 52, left Brava when he was 11 years old and moved to Pawtucket, RI where he had four children and lived until 1988 when he moved to Tampa, FL. He says he was deported when he was 39 years old for drug-related offenses. Since his return, he has reintegrated well, joining a church and earning many accolades for his work in agriculture.
"You get more respect in jail over there than to be here in society," says Napoleão Gomes, 40, who left Brava when he was 18 and joined the Cape Verdean military. He then moved to Pawtucket, RI and was deported back to Brava when he was 35. All his family, including his four children, are in the United States. "How can you live over here? How can you survive? ... They don't give us jobs, they don't give us education, no water, nothing."
See also The Wretched Face of Forced Immobility, an article by Lorenz Khazaleh (UiO) discussing Heike Drotbohm's work among deportees in Cape Verde and her own reaction to seeing the above portraits by Andrea Wise.
Themed Week on Visual Methodologies:
- Monday: Visualising Immigration Detention and Deportation (S. Turnbull)
- Tuesday: The Politics of the Image (K. West)
- Wednesday: Using Images in Research on Immigration Detention: Tensions and Challenges (F. Esposito)
- Thursday: RETURNED: Portraits of People Deported to Brava, Cape Verde (A. Wise)
- Friday: Photo-elicitation in Prison: Visual Methods and Visual Culture (L. Gariglio)
How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):
Wise, A. (2015) RETURNED: Portraits of People Deported to Brava, Cape Verde. Available at: http://bordercriminologies.law.ox.ac.uk/returned-deported-brava/ (Accessed [date]).