Disclaimer: I am not from the Dominican Republic or Haiti. I am not in either country. I am drawing on information from the news and media. Sources can be found at the end of this article.
Last week, the Dominican Republic (D.R.) government put into effect the “Plan Nacional de Regularizacion de Extranjeros” (National Regulatory Plan of Foreigners). This plan aims at having all immigrants on Dominican soil to have their residency papers on point. 98% of immigrants in the Dominican Republic are Haitian and from Haitian descent.
The first part of the plan was to give immigrants a certain amount of time to settle their residency papers and acquire a Dominican nationality. This process was finalized last week, and now there are 45 days of grace in which the papers will be revised and analyzed by migration workers.
The government has opened seven “repatriation centers,” which have been likened to concentration camps for Haitians at the border between the two countries. Buses to transport immigrants have also been set up. Two thousand armed forces are scattered around the country ready to follow the orders of the Immigration Office.
In 2012, 458,233 of the 524,632 immigrants living in the D.R., were of Haitian nationality, equivalent to about 87%. In this same year, 668,144 people of Haitian origin and their descendants born in the D.R. were counted. These are the people that now, will be deported from the country if they do not have time to settle their papers. Reportedly, thousands of families have begun self-deportations in order to avoid run-ins with the authorities.
On January 5th, 1952, Paul E. Magloire and Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republican, respectively, signed an agreement concerning the hiring of Haitian citizens and an open door in D.R. for temporary Haitian workers to work in agriculture and commerce. Sixty-three years later, 40,000 cutters of sugar cane from Haitian nationality and their 100,000 descendants born in D.R. are claiming that these documents will impede their deportation, but after this Wednesday, the doors have been closed for them.
One of the main complaints Haitians had was the slow pace in the governmental centers where paperwork was settled. Many people waited over three days and did not get their paperwork. There were women with newborn babies waiting outside office doors. Apparently, guards were bribing the immigrants to allow them into the buildings.
This Regulatory Plan had been passed in November 2013, but it hasn’t been until this week that Haitians have begun to suffer the consequences.
Although, most of the process has been peaceful, there are reports of Dominican military deports and arrests, some of which that occurred when people showed up to the offices to settle their paperwork. This, though, has not been on the news.
This situation is a very intricate problem that exists as a result of an immigration problem along with a deep rooted racism and xenophobia towards Haitians. These feelings can be traced back to the first existence of the Dominican Republic, when it became independent from Haiti. Since then, the Dominican Republic has flourished economically and advanced much more than its counterpart. Hence, Haitians have immigrated to the D.R. looking for opportunities, and in turn become the lower end in the socioeconomic ladder.
Many of the people who are going to be deported were born and raised in the D.R. Many don’t speak Creole and have never been to Haiti. And now, they just have to pack up and go to a country that is not in a position to provide any opportunities.
The Dominican Republic will also be affected by this mass deportation. The country depends on Haitian labor, as it is cheaper than Dominican labor. Haitian’s can earn up to 60% less than Dominican workers. They earn $1.12 an hour in rice plantations. In banana plantations, they can earn between $5.58 and $6.69 a day, with a meal included as a bonus. Now, many of these plantations will lose their workers.
This week, the Haitian government banned the import of many Dominican products. From this Friday on, plantains, eggs, chicken, lettuce and other vegetables will not be allowed onto Haitian soil. Although there was no given reason for this, it is considered a response from the Haitian government to the eventual deportation of thousands of Haitians from the D.R.
This situation also puts Haiti at risk. As of right now, $1,300 million is the amount of money that Haitians living in the D.R. send back to their country. This represents a quarter of the PIB of Haiti. The descend of this number can have a traumatic effect on the poorest economy of the West.
The Dominican writer, Junot Diaz, called attention to the situation when he spoke at a panel hosted by Miami Workers Center, a local activist group, in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.
“What happens when a government basically green-lights your most primitive, f***ed up xenophobia?” asked Diaz. “You can develop a certain response from people over 20, 30 years, and in the Dominican Republic, the history is long of cultivating this response.” Diaz also added, “If we do not begin to practice the muscles of having a possessive investment in each other’s oppressions, then we are in some serious trouble.”
The Dominican government has spoken up against criticism from the international community, posing this as a mere immigration affair much like the ones that exist in any other country. But, in this case, there is something that moves beyond immigration and blurs the line with xenophobia.
It is sad, that as of right now, the public has not heard what Haitians have to say about this. We have also not been given real insight into what is happening in the country. This is why the international community needs to be aware of this issue and speak up against the violation of basic rights that many Haitians are suffering right now.