The South Atlantic Quarterly 100.4 (2001) 949-966
Definitions (8) The term "publication" means any circular, newspaper, periodical, pamphlet, book, letter, post card, leaflet, or other publication.
(9) The term "United States" when used in a geographical sense, includes the several States, Territories, and possessions of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the Canal Zone.
—Internal Security Act of 1950
According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the number of deportations from the United States, more than 32,000 for 1998, increased by nearly 50 percent over the previous year. The INS showed a 70 percent increase in deportations in the last quarter of fiscal year 1997 (ending in September 1997). In their words, "In fiscal year, 1997, the INS deported more than 113,000 people and the agency has set a goal of 127,300 deportations for fiscal year, 1998." The result of this massive deportation activity, for places like Trinidad, for example, was an upsurge in "returnees" who had left home often as young children and who were deported back to the Caribbean as adults, sometimes with no close or visible relatives left there. These designated "returnees," as they are called by the INS, Caribbean immigration officials argue, are actually U.S. nationals, citizens who had spent all their lives in the United States (i.e., came to the United States as children, were schooled and socialized here, and in effect were products of the U.S. system; many have children and other relatives who are U.S. citizens) who are then effectively relocated to a "home" with which they have maintained few connections. The crimes charged to these "returnees" range from teenage smoking of marijuana, prostitution, and drug offenses to rape and other serious crimes of high physical violence. One Consulate official calls it a "policy without care." Often deportees are sent, without warning or attention paid to the types of crime committed, to "home countries" that often do not have the appropriate social services to accommodate their needs. Additionally, anyone involved in crime is deportable at the end of sentencing; indeed, some are deported without completing their sentences in the United States. In a sense, then, for these people, the island becomes a prison camp much like Carrerra, the Alcatraz-style prison island between Trinidad and Venezuela. At times, according to one Consulate official who decries the policy, deportation is even used retroactively for people who had committed crimes in their youth. In other words, deportation is a catchall alternative to prison for a range of offenses. Furthermore, framing deportation in terms of criminality masks the fact that it is one of the ways the U.S. state constructs its desirable citizens daily.
In an ongoing project on Claudia Jones this researcher was drawn to the conditions surrounding the only black woman among a group of thirteen communists tried, convicted, sentenced, incarcerated, and then deported for communist organizing in 1953. The issue of Jones's deportation loomed significantly as a theme to be pursued and prompted a larger examination of deportation in the context of political activity as well as in the larger context of policies regarding "aliens" such as those involving returnees to the islands in the Caribbean. Interestingly, in my search for information, I have found that almost none of the literature on diaspora has dealt in any way with the issue of deportation. The major African diaspora studies have made significant headway in specifying the terms of diaspora discourse but they tend to focus on the immigration side, the emotive issues of home and exile, and diaspora in relation to Pan-Africanism. In the study edited by Joseph Harris, for example, there is some discussion of actual "return to the homeland" but it focuses mostly on such issues as the legacy of Marcus Garvey and Sierra Leone returnees to Africa. The actual movement in and around the Caribbean and the Americas and inside Africa and Europe remains to...