“Fear of Deportation in the Dominican Republic” by Edwidge Danticat (author of The Farming of Bones, among many others) appeared on 17 June 2015 in The New Yorker. Many thanks to Rod Fusco for bringing this one to our attention. Here are excerpts; I highly recommend the full article (see link below):
On both the eastern and western sides of the island of Hispaniola, many have feared this day, when an estimated two hundred and ten thousand Dominicans of Haitian descent will become stateless. Even though they were born and raised in the Dominican Republic and often speak no language other than Spanish, starting today, they can be expelled from their country and deported to Haiti, along with hundreds of thousands of Haitian immigrants.
On September 23, 2013, the highest court in the Dominican Republic ruled that people born after 1929 could only be granted citizenship if they had at least one Dominican parent. As part of its ruling, the court ordered a review of the country’s civil registry and birth records to determine how many people were eligible for expulsion.
The court made its ruling in response to the case of a Dominican-born woman, Juliana Deguis Pierre, who had been denied identity papers by local authorities because she had a Haitian name. She challenged the decision all the way to the Constitutional Court. It is common for Dominican officials to deny papers to those with Haitian names, but it has never been policy before. The Dominican constitution grants jus soli, or right to the soil—that is, citizenship—to all those who are born in the country, unless they are the children of people who are “in transit.” In effect, the Constitutional Court’s ruling has redefined “in transit” to include all those who have immigrated within the past eighty-five years.
Deisy Toussaint, a twenty-eight-year-old novelist and essayist, whose father is Dominican and whose mother is a Haitian immigrant, did not realize that the ruling could affect her until she was invited to a literary festival in Cuba. Even though she has a Dominican birth certificate and cedula, or identity card, she was initially denied a passport because of her Haitian name. It took Toussaint two and a half years to get her passport, and she only received it after her father, who was living outside of the country, returned to the Dominican Republic to vouch for her.
Toussaint has written for many Dominican publications and has even worked for the government, but she remains fearful that she may not be able to stay in her country. Because of her writings against the ruling, she has been accused (as have I) of being part of an international conspiracy to discredit the Dominican Republic. [. . .]
Dominicans of Haitian descent are not the only afectados (people who have been affected by the ruling), but they constitute the largest number. They have also been the victims of an increased number of public beatings, burnings, lynchings, and other acts of violence by vigilantes who have taken it upon themselves to forcibly remove Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent from some communities. The ruling legitimizes not only these actions but also the centuries-old antihaitianismo, or anti-Haitian prejudice, in the Dominican Republic, and may well make life more difficult even for those Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian immigrants who, for the time being, are allowed to stay.
The Dominican government responded to outcry over the ruling from neighboring countries and human-rights organizations by announcing a “regularization” plan for foreigners. About two hundred and fifty thousand people have started the process, but only about ten thousand have been able to meet all its requirements, and only about three hundred have received residency permits, according to Ramon Fadul, the Dominican Republic’s interior minister. An American acquaintance, who has been living in the Dominican Republic for the past eleven years (and who has often chided me for speaking out on this issue), wrote to me a few weeks ago to say that even she would have no choice but to self-deport.
Self-deportation is not a possibility for a large number of Dominicans of Haitian descent, who have known no country but the D.R. In an essay called “A ver si lo entiendo” (“Let Me Get This Straight”) Toussaint laid out, in a tongue and cheek manner, the steps that she would have had to take to live without citizenship in her own country:
First, I have to find an academy to learn Creole. Second, go to Haiti, but since I have no passport I would need to hire a guide to secretly smuggle me across the mountains. (Crossing by river might be fatal as I do not swim.) Third, tell the Haitian authorities that they must give me a Haitian passport based on my ancestry. Fourth, as I presume that the process will not be quick, I must find a job in Haiti since I would have lost mine in Santo Domingo. Fifth, upon my return to the Dominican Republic, as a foreign legal entry, immediately apply for a residence permit to live in my own house.
A few weeks ago, at a Haitian-American community meeting in Miami, Edwin Paraison, the former minister to Haitians living abroad, warned that the deportations can quickly dissolve into an urgent humanitarian crisis. Paraison has seen large-scale deportations before, in the nineteen-nineties, when hundreds of Haitian immigrants and some Dominicans of Haitian descent were simply picked up and dumped at the border by Dominican authorities without being allowed to collect their belongings or notify their families. Back then the Haitian government was given little or no notice. Now, however, Daniel Supplice, the Haitian Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, told me, the two countries have come to some kind of accord about the coming expulsions.
[. . .] At the Miami event where I spoke to Paraison, the mostly Haitian audience was just as angry with the Haitian government as they were with its Dominican counterpart. Haitian leaders, many said, seem much more comfortable with members of the Dominican business and political élite than they are with poor Haitians or poor Dominicans of Haitian descent. Both sides have used the Haitian and Dominican poor as pawns in trade disagreements and other bilateral disputes.
Given how many Haitian immigrants and Dominicans with Haitian parents remain, without “regularization” in the Dominican Republic, one can easily imagine that the expulsions will number in the thousands. This would establish a sad and dangerous precedent in the region. Haitian immigrants in places like the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos may now also fear being rounded up and shipped back, en masse, to Haiti. These deportations violate many international treaties and conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are also unjust and inhumane and should be stopped.
For full article, go to http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/fear-of-deportation-in-the-dominican-republic