December 21, 2009

Deportee, Rene Vicioso, establishes NGO designed to help deportees

Rene Vicioso was born in 1951 in Ciudad Nueva, a middle class neighborhood close to the center of Santo Domingo. He had a comfortable childhood. However, things began to change when President Trujillo was assassinated in 1961, and the Revolution broke out in 1965.

Rene finished high school in 1968, and began to study law at the public university – UASD. At UASD, Rene joined a group of militant, left-wing students. Rene’s father began to worry for his safety, and decided to send him to the United States. At the time, it was fairly easy for Dominicans to get visas to travel to the US, especially young leftists like Rene.

Rene arrived in 1971 in New York City. He attended night school at George Washington High School, where he finished an English course and a high school certificate. With this, Rene could enroll in Columbia University. He again began to study law, this time in the United States.

While at Columbia, Rene met a young Dominican woman and they began to date. They soon were married, and, not too long after, she became pregnant with their first son. When Rene’s father found out about the marriage and the pregnancy, he told Rene he would have to work. His father would no longer support him.

Rene looked at his options for work, and decided that the easiest way to make money was to sell drugs. Thus, in 1972, Rene began what would become a fairly long career as a drug dealer. Rene managed to stay out of trouble with the law until 1981, when he was found with a firearm. He served a year for that. Then, in 1982, he served two years for possession of one gram of cocaine. Back on the streets, Rene went back to drug dealing.

Although he now had a record and knew that he was at risk of doing serious time, Rene continued to sell drugs, in part because he had developed a heroin addiction, and this was the best way to feed it. Also, he had connections that allowed him to make lots of money to support his family. By this time, Rene had three children and a wife to support.

In 1987, Rene was arrested and charged with criminal enterprise and racketeering. He had been shipping kilos of cocaine from Miami to New York City, and, after a lengthy FBI investigation, had been caught. In 1990, Rene was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Once in prison, it hit Rene that he would be doing some serious time. He decided that he would spend his time in the library, trying to fight his case. Rene began a long series of appeals, arguing that his sentence of 40 years did not fit the crime. Eventually, his appeals were successful, and, in 2004, Rene was released from prison, after serving 17 years in federal prison.

As Rene was a Dominican national, he was deported to the Dominican Republic after completing his sentence. His sisters and brother came to pick him up at the airport, and helped him get settled in. Rene’s wife had purchased an apartment in Gazcue, so Rene eventually was able to move in there.

Just one year after arriving in the Dominican Republic, Rene established an NGO, Bienvenido Seas, designed to help deportees reintegrate into society. Upon arriving in Santo Domingo, Rene realized that there are nothing but obstacles for deportees. With “deported” on their records, deportees cannot obtain credit cards, cannot open bank accounts, and cannot get stable employment.

Rene acknowledges that he committed serious crimes in the United States. However, he thinks he has served his time and paid his debt to society. As such, he asks why he is punished again in the Dominican Republic.

Determined to do something about this stigma, Rene enrolled in university in Santo Domingo, and established Bienvenido Seas. At university, again, he is studying law. This time, however, it looks as though Rene will finally be able to obtain that degree. He just has one semester of studies left and looks forward to obtaining his degree such that he can work, and help other deportees achieve their goals in the Dominican Republic.

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