I worked as a fixer and photographer for this story that aired on Al Jazeera America in the spring of 2016.
In 2015, during Obama’s administration 6,000 inmates convicted of drug crimes had their sentences reduced. Thousand more would follow. It’s part of an effort to reform drug sentencing guidelines that led to the disproportionate incarceration of black and hispanic people. They were released early. But from that first group, a third of those inmates weren’t U.S. citizens and were deported.
Ramón Caro and his wife legally migrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in the late 1980s, along with their daughter Jessica. Their son Alex was born in New York City. In 1990, Ramón was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and maintaining a place for narcotics distribution. He was sentenced to 30 years for this non-violent crime. After 26 years behind bars, his sentence was reduced and he was repatriated to Dominican Republic in February 2016. His wife Alejandra and adult kids, who all work and are citizens in the U.S., flew over to meet him there only for a few days.
Ramón’s mother, Miguelina, had made a promise to the Virgin of La Altagracia that if she was alive to see her son come back home, their very first outing as a family would be to the Basilica in Higuey. The morning after Ramón’s arrival, the family woke up early to drive to the province of La Altagracia to honor that promise. The next night, they had a Welcome Home party with the rest of his family and friends.