The 1996 U.S. Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act has led to the forcible deportation of more than thirty thousand Dominicans from the United States, with little protest or even notice from the public. Since these deportees return to the country of their origin, many Americans assume repatriation will be easy and the emotional and financial hardships will be few, but in fact the opposite is true. Deportees suffer greatly when they are torn from their American families and social networks, and they are further demeaned as they resettle former homelands, blamed for crime waves, cultural and economic decline, and other troubles largely beyond their control.
Following thousands of Dominican deportees over a seven-year period, David C. Brotherton and Luis Barrios capture the experience of emigration, imprisonment, banishment, and repatriation on this vulnerable population. Through a unique combination of sociological and criminological reasoning, they isolate the forces that motivate immigrants to leave their homeland and then commit crimes that violate the very terms of their stay. Housed in urban landscapes rife with gangs, drugs, and tenuous working conditions, these individuals, the authors find, repeatedly play out a tragic scenario, influenced by long-standing historical injustices, punitive politics, and increasingly conservative attitudes undermining basic human rights and freedoms. Brotherton and Barrios conclude that a simultaneous process of cultural inclusion and socioeconomic exclusion best explains the trajectory of emigration, settlement, and rejection, and they mark in the behavior of deportees the contradictory effects of dependency and colonialism: the seductive draw of capitalism typified by the American dream versus the material needs of immigrant life; the interests of an elite security state versus the desires of immigrant workers and families to succeed; and the ambitions of the Latino community versus the political realities of those designing crime and immigration laws, which always disadvantage these poor and vulnerable populations. Filled with riveting life stories and uncommon ethnographic research, Banished to the Homeland relates the modern deportee's journey to broader theoretical studies of transnationalism, assimilation, and social control, exposing the dangerous new reality created by today's draconian immigration policies.