Achy Obejas

writer & translator


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Review of IMMIGRANT VOICES in Printers Row Journal

“Over the three days that I sat and read the 18 selections in Immigrant Voices: 21st Century Stories, I felt an ever-surging need to talk to somebody — really talk to somebody — about these moving and important half-dreams/whole stories. These pieces by haunted and haunting writers. These suggestions regarding arrivals, wranglings, stayings, leavings, never-quite-belongings. This chorus of yearning, of not finally settling, of divisions of heart, home, faith. [...]“

Read the rest of the review, by Beth Kephart, here.


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In These Times: “Ending the Pain in Venezuela”

Opponents of the Maduro government battle police in Caracas on March 5. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images.)

Opponents of the Maduro government battle police in Caracas on March 5. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images.)

Venezuela duele. On Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Zello and many other apps, again and again: Venezuela duele. The phrase encompasses a world of hurt: Venezuela pains me, Venezuela is in pain. It goes both ways.

Beginning in mid-February, the country was wracked by confrontations between the Chavista government and the opposition. Young people overturned cars, barricaded streets and destroyed public property in frustration. President Nicolás Maduro responded by sending in troops, who teargassed and beat demonstrators. More than a dozen people were eventually killed. Scores were arrested.

No resolution is in sight, and that’s because of one simple, inescapable fact: Neither side has a popular mandate.

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In These Times Column: Citizens of Nowhere

dominicansAbout 200,000 Haitian-Dominicans woke up one morning in September 2012 to find that the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court of Justice had left their citizenship in doubt. They no longer held valid birth certificates, could no longer practice certain professions (such as law) and no longer had the right to vote. Even cashing a check had become a legal challenge.

The result of the manipulation of existing citizenship laws and the stacking of the Supreme Court by powerful politicians, the court decision broadened the category of non-citizen “persons in transit” to include anyone without documents—no matter if they’ve been in the DR for decades. The redefinition effectively nullifies citizenship, not just for first-generation immigrants, but for the descendants of anyone who arrived in the country after 1929. In practical terms, that overwhelmingly affects Haitian-Dominicans, most of whom know no other country than the DR and no other language but Spanish, and who consider themselves thoroughly Dominican. The history of Haitians in the DR, where about 11 percent of the population is black and 73 percent is mixedrace, has been fraught; a 2007 United Nations report called out the DR for racism and discrimination against its black neighbors and their descendants.

At 1.5 million strong, Dominicans are the fifth-largest Latin American immigrant group in the United States. So one might think that the U.S.—led by its first black president—might have, at the very least, issued a few words of protest.

But the U.S. did not speak up. It wasn’t until mid-December, three months after the decree became law and more than 300 Haitian-Dominicans had been deported in spite of the DR’s assurance that no such actions would be taken, that the U.S. expressed “deep concern” about the situation.

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