Life After Deportation: Surviving as a Dominican Deportee (Evan Rodkey, 2014)

This thesis is the culmination of an ethnographic study centered on the survival strategies of deportees from the United States living in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. The focus is on people who moved to the U.S. at a young age and later faced deportation as adults for conviction of a crime after spending many years—near lifetimes in many cases—in the U.S. Over the course of five trips to Santo Domingo, I conducted participant-observation with many deportees, assessing their adjustment to living away from their home, family, and friends in the U.S.; living conditions and quotidian livelihoods; and economic survival strategies. I found that many deportees worked in call centers for U.S. businesses that have outsourced this work. In order to more effectively assess this facet of surviving as a deportee, I conducted participant observation by working in a call center, completing a training program for call center agents. I further conducted interviews with seven core participants, asking questions related to their conceptions of citizenship, belonging, immigration policy, deportation policy and the overall process of being deported. I used their responses to build on theoretical understandings of citizenship and transnational migration. Through my work I found the conceptions of citizenship carried by deportees varies widely. Some of their views reinforced the legitimacy of the nation-state, whereas others supported “postnational” conceptions of citizenship. Regarding survival strategies, I found that working in a call center (as well as with tourists in some cases) allows many deportees to apply transnational strategies, linking them back to the their home in the U.S. Though a diverse group, taken together, the views and experiences of deportees are strongly shaped by having grown up in the U.S. Indeed, their presence in their country of birth complicates notions of “home.”