Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed May 1, 1998
Contact: Kristen Lans

In our backyard

Brown student looks at effect of deportations on Portuguese community

Brown University anthropology graduate student Miguel D. Moniz is researching the growing rate of deportation from North America to the Azores Islands. He recently interviewed resident aliens from southern New England who are awaiting deportation, and plans to spend a year in the Azores documenting their experiences once abroad.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Southern New England is home to one of the largest populations of Portuguese immigrants in the nation, but it is now losing fathers, sons and brothers to increasing numbers of deportations, says a Brown University graduate student of anthropology.

Over the last few years, more than 400 Portuguese resident aliens - mainly men - have been deported from North America to the Azores Islands as part of their punishment for a felony conviction, according to Miguel D. Moniz, of Falmouth, Mass.

Moniz is currently studying the far-reaching effects that deportation has on the communities both here and in the Azores, where the majority of the deportees are being sent. He has interviewed inmates awaiting deportation at security facilities in Norfolk and Bristol Counties in Massachusetts, and plans to live in the Azores for a year to study how deportees begin life anew. He will travel there this summer to do initial work, then return in the fall to spend the year.

The situation is a fairly recent one. The deportation of resident aliens reached large numbers only a few years ago, after anti-terrorist legislation was adopted in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, said Moniz. Before the legislation, resident aliens were entitled to a hearing and sentenced to deportation only if they were repeat offenders of extreme crimes. Now deportation is automatic for those who commit felonies.

Most of the deportees are between the ages of 20 and 40, said Moniz. They came to the United States as children - at least a third of them before the age of 6 - and many did not realize they were not citizens and therefore were vulnerable to deportation. They often do not remember the country they came from, its language or culture.

The Portuguese government is trying to establish programs to deal with problems that the U.S. deportees face. It is considering creating halfway houses and job-finding services, and has already begun programs in U.S. prisons to teach Portuguese to those awaiting deportation, said Moniz. Information on the situation is also welcome; Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama has expressed interest in the results of Moniz' research.

"Everyone is convinced that something should be done in this area," said Onesimo Almeida, chairman of Brown's Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. "It is a really tense situation. These are very peaceful islands and the deportees are seen as the people who are going to change that."

Moniz recently received a Fulbright Scholarship to fund his research. The scholarship will cover the cost of travel and moving expenses, and will include a monthly stipend for living expenses.