Thousands of people of Haitian descent languish in long lines as they wait to prove that they belong in the Dominican Republic before the end of the day on June 17. After that deadline passes, what’s next could be legal deportation.
Dominican Interior Minister Ramon Fadul said that up to 250,000 people could face deportation, but that the Dominican government would not be conducting mass round-ups. Still, the Associated Press reported that officials have prepared 12 buses (a curious number considering the vast amount of people threatened with deportation) and have opened up processing centers along the border with Haiti.
In September 2013, the country’s highest court ruled that children born to undocumented Haitian immigrants born after 1929 were no longer Dominican citizens — even those born on Dominican soil. This new ruling adversely affected anywhere from 200,000 to upwards of half a million people, depending on sources.
After international backlash from human rights groups, the Dominican government rushed to create a pathway to legal residency and citizenship for those stuck in deportation limbo. In order to avoid deportation, Dominican officials required people of Haitian descent to provide proof of birth in the country or documentation proving that the non-citizen has been in the Dominican Republic since October 2011.
But, as many groups warned, the legal quick fixes weren’t enough; only about 300 permits granting legal residency were issued, while hundreds of thousands of people are still staring deportation and statelessness in the face.
The struggle to obtain documents proves pervasive. According to the Associated Press, people were dealing with employers who failed to provide the appropriate documentation and the Haitian government’s slow processing of birth certificates — all of which pose major challenges for immigrants.
Another aspect is the fate of those born in the Dominican Republic who cannot provide their birth certificate. In the 20th century, many Haitian immigrants were unable or actively prevented from registering the birth of their children.
If people born and raised in the Dominican Republic are deported to Haiti — a country to which they have no ties and where they likely do not speak the local language — what will happen to them?
Still in recovery from the 2010 earthquake that decimated the capital of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, Haiti’s infrastructure hardly has the capacity to take in the approximately 200,000 people who could be surging over its borders in the coming days and weeks. Lack of education, employment, health care and a raging cholera epidemic are just some of the major issues that still plague Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Surely, a large influx of people will only exacerbate the situation.
As petitions made the rounds on June 16, and while the Dominican government violates the human rights of hundreds of thousands of people, both the Haitian and United States governments remain silent.
The tension between the Dominican Republic and Haiti is centuries-old, and Haitians or anyone perceived to be Haitian — particularly those with dark complexions — are routinely the victims of discrimination.
This latest round of anti-Haitian sentiment is being called a “social cleansing” by Haitian and Dominican activists alike. Will the international community stand by while tens of thousands are rendered stateless?
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