- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

VILA NOVA SINTRA, Cape Verde Islands As winds bluster over the rocky island, Henry Goncalves leafs through a photo album in a dim room with Mickey Mouse curtains on the windows and wipes away a tear.
There are pictures of his wife, four smiling children, a house with a swimming pool in the Florida suburbs all left behind when he was deported from the United States last year after spending 30 months in jail on a drug conviction.
Raised on fast food and the American dream, Mr. Goncalves, 42, now ekes out a living growing vegetables and slaughtering pigs on Brava, one of the smallest of the Cape Verde islands, off the coast of West Africa.
"I did my time in jail for my crime," he said bitterly. "But what they are doing to me here, that to me is a life sentence."
After more than 150 years of some of the most sustained migration in Africa, there are at least as many if not more Cape Verdians living in the United States as on this Atlantic archipelago of 10 volcanic islands and eight islets.
In recent years, however, growing numbers of Cape Verdians have been sent back under U.S. immigration laws that make deportation mandatory for offenses as small as shoplifting or stealing a car radio.
About 20 have been shipped home every year since 1996. While that's only a tiny portion of those living in the United States, it's enough to affect an island like Brava, where more than 30 deported residents are concentrated in Vila Nova Sintra, a town of 2,000.

Most are helpless
Brought up mainly in the cities of New England, most of the deported residents have no idea how to cope in a country where raising livestock and farming steep, terraced hills with little or no rainfall is the main source of income.
Many don't speak the local creole, a blend of Portuguese and West African dialects the languages of the country's former colonizers and the slaves who made the once-uninhabited islands habitable.
Unable to adjust, they are starting to make easy recruits for international drug cartels that use Cape Verde as a transit and storage point, U.S. and Cape Verdian officials say.
Brava, or Wild, island presents a bleak and unwelcoming facade to the urbanized men returned by the United States.
Surrounded by craggy cliffs and rough seas, the island of 6,000 people is buffeted by winds so fierce that pilots refuse to land on its single airstrip. Access to the outside world is limited to the nominally twice-a-week ferry from the capital, Praia, on Santiago island.
Through the years, long periods of drought and famine, worsened by overgrazing and deforestation, have spurred waves of migration to Portugal, France, the Netherlands and, above all, the United States.
Many of Cape Verde's 430,000 people depend on the money, clothes, food and other gifts sent back by the migrants, whose contributions to their sun-parched homeland represent about 20 percent of the gross national product.
"We have only two things the rainy season and the United States," said Maria Eduardo Rodriguez, a barefoot mother of six whose weather-worn face creases with laughter as she takes a break from clearing the rocky Brava soil for planting. "You can't tell me anything wrong about the States."

Close ties to America
Cape Verdians began moving to America in large numbers in the first half of the 19th century, when U.S. whaling ships started recruiting fishermen from Brava and nearby Fogo who later settled on the other side of the Atlantic.
Today, on this island of mostly mulatto people the result of centuries of miscegenation between Europeans and Africans almost everyone has either been to the United States or has relatives there they dream of visiting.
Young men in baggy trousers and colorful bandannas emerge from whitewashed houses with terra cotta-tile roofs and strut down cobblestone streets to the beat from portable radios. Ragged children call out to strangers with an American-style "Yo."
Tiny general stores that use scales with brass weights to measure out dried corn and beans also stock American brands like Huggies diapers, A&W; root beer and Skippy peanut butter.
Although emigrants usually are feted when they visit, those who return to Brava after a term in a U.S. prison say they are treated like outcasts.
Referred to disparagingly as the "deportados," they are widely feared in a country where most people don't have locks on their doors, but which experienced its first ever gang-style killing just over two years ago. When a window breaks or a chicken disappears, the deported residents are the first to be blamed.
"They come here, they rob, they destroy your property, they take your bananas," said Toy Silva, 47, himself a U.S. resident who returns regularly to visit family in Brava. "They're like animals."
The deported residents, in turn, often treat locals like country bumpkins.
Nervous, angry and alone, most struggle to find work and make friends.
"I just can't get adjusted to the life here," said Mr. Goncalves, surveying his vegetable garden in jeans, a Florida State University T-shirt and a Dallas Cowboys cap.
He misses the little things being able to speak to his wife without the phone line cutting out, taking his children to the park, eating a hamburger, going to the movies.
"Most of all, I miss a nice hot shower," he said, pointing to the blue plastic bowl he uses to wash himself in the open behind the two-room, concrete-block house he refers to as his "jail cell."
Running water is a rarity on the island, where most people rely on communal pumps that distribute water only twice a week because of shortages.
Mr. Goncalves was 11 when his family moved to Pawtucket, R.I. He finished high school in the United States, married an American woman and moved to Tampa, Fla., where he worked as a truck driver.
After all those years living on a green card, it did not occur to him that he wasn't a U.S. citizen until he was arrested for dealing drugs. By then, it was too late.

Criminal ties persist
Sweeping changes to U.S. immigration law in 1996 dramatically expanded what are considered deportable offenses and withdrew a waiver that had previously been available for permanent residents.
Mr. Goncalves was not the only one caught out, said the Rev. Aderito Ferreira, a pastor with the Nazarene Church, one of the only institutions in Cape Verde providing food, counseling and other help to the deported residents.
Many migrants leave the islands at a young age and grow up thinking of themselves as Americans, Mr. Ferreira said. Their parents are often uneducated and speak little English, so it is only when they run afoul of the law that they learn that they should have become naturalized citizens.
Cape Verdian authorities worry that when those deported return to the islands after serving their sentences, they don't always sever their criminal ties particularly with the drug trade.
Cape Verde, which served for centuries as a staging post for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, today is used as a transit point for a different kind of trafficking: cocaine.
Most of the drugs, which come from Latin America and West Africa, are destined for Europe. But some are distributed locally, both to and by deported residents.
"They have no work, no family and no language skills," said Mr. Ferreira, the clergyman. "Of course they will be recruited."
The government would like to start a program to help deported residents learn the language, acquire skills and start over, but officials say they don't have the funds and are looking to the United States for help.
"We are not going to reject them," said Justice Minister Cristina Fontes. "But it probably would be fair if the country where they learned their criminality assumed some responsibility for them."
In the meantime, the men struggle on their own to rebuild their lives.
Mr. Goncalves is adding a room to his house and has cleared more land for planting during the brief rainy season. But what matters most to him remains out of reach: his family.
"The one thing I want to be able to do in life is to give my children a hug," he said. "That's all."

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