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Deporation Crisis in the Dominican Republic

Deporation Crisis in the Dominican Republic

Over the past week, an explosion of news stories, photos, and interviews have hit the internet - stories covering the mounting crisis facing hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrant workers in the Dominican Republic. I for one am very happy for the coverage.

Maybe it has cropped up in your own scouring of regional news. Maybe you have no clue to what I am referring. Here, I hope, is a helpful recap of the brewing situation.

Dominicans of Haitian descent with the Dominican flag painted on their cheeks demonstrate in front of the Central Electoral Board to demand their Dominican citizenship in Santo Domingo on March 12, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Erika SANTELICES | Getty

Dominicans of Haitian descent with the Dominican flag painted on their cheeks demonstrate in front of the Central Electoral Board to demand their Dominican citizenship in Santo Domingo on March 12, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Erika SANTELICES | Getty

 

The D.R. is Haiti's neighbor to the east, occupying roughly two-thirds of the land mass that is Hispaniola (the historic name for the island that Haiti and the D.R. share). Despite their proximity (or perhaps because of it), the two nations have faced centuries of tense relations.

The economic relationship between the two countries can be compared to that of the U.S. and Mexico. The D.R. has a high demand for low-wage workers in the agriculture sector, housekeeping, as well as in a growing construction industry. Haitians desperate for work regularly cross the border, and it's worth noting that this migration has been encouraged by both governments at various points. 

Economic ties aside, Haitians living and working in the D.R. make up a sort of economically marginalized underclass. Skin color, names, and occupations often set them apart.

This past week, a 2013 D.R. court ruling is coming into play, which may lead to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Haitian migrant workers and perhaps Dominicans of Haitian descent. There is growing international outrage at the 2013 D.R. policy, which has essentially stripped citizenship from Dominicans with foreign-born parents going back to 1929. This means that Dominicans of Haitian descent, who may not even speak Kreyòl or have current ties to Haiti, could be rounded up with Haitian migrant workers and dropped into a country not their own.

The deadline for Haitian migrants to register in a regularization program was last Wednesday, and deportations have commenced for all who are found without the required paperwork.

The D.R. authorities claim they will carry out deportations with due process. Yet, at the same time, anti-Haitian sentiment and racial profiling have already led to Dominicans being deported to Haiti whose citizenship rights were taken away based on the 2013 ruling.

There is a poignant article written by a Dominican diaspora leader in New York City, condemning the actions of the Dominican government and calling for international pressure to secure the rights of all Dominican citizens.

Many groups, due to the proximity in time between this crisis and the killings in Charleston, are linking the discrimination faced by Haitians in the D.R. with the #BlackLivesMatter campaign by using the hashtag #HaitianLivesMatter. Demonstrations and petitions are surfacing from communities in the U.S. and the D.R. The New York City mayor has also spoken out on the issue.

As you search media for more coverage on this topic, I hope you will take a moment to pray, share a news story with a friend, and sign a petition directed towards the D.R. government urging them to put a stop to a hasty, misguided immigration policy that upends the lives of so many. These are all key ways to show our solidarity, to act.

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Extra resources: 

Ted wrote an excellent summary of the legal framework of these proceedings and recent news for MCC's Latin America Advocacy blog.

If you have 45-minutes, check out this documentary by Henry Louis Gates Jr  that explores Haitian and Dominican relations through the lens of their histories.

We blogged more on this issue in February.

This was re-posted from Katharine & Ted's personal blog, Stories to Tell.

Katharine is from San Diego, California and has served with MCC Haiti since July 2014 as Advocacy Coordinator and Policy Analyst. She studied History and Religious Studies at University of California Davis, then International Development at Eastern University. You can follow her Instagram on life in Haiti @katharineoswald, Haiti advocacy news on Facebook, and her personal blog, Stories to Tell.

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