Words by Nandini Gosine-Mayrhoo
In our August 2015 Digital Issue, POTENT reported on the tensions existing between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, over the D.R.’s controversial expulsion of undocumented Haitian migrants and their descendants. Although generating considerable press coverage in the earlier part of 2015, most mainstream news agencies have since tired of reporting on the ongoing tensions.
When the D.R. first announced its plans to expel Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent, international condemnation culminated in worldwide demonstrations in support of the Haitians facing expulsion. Demonstrations occurred in several major cities including New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., and Montreal.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio called for the U.S. to intervene in the crisis and there was a stern rebuke from the United Nations, urging the Dominican government to “take all necessary measures to ensure that Dominican citizens of Haitian origin are not deprived of their right to nationality in the accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations”.
Haiti instituted a formal ban on 23 D.R. products while social media was awash with calls for a D.R. boycott. However, some argued that given the D.R. economic reliance on cheap labor provided by Haitian migrants and their descendants, such a boycott could only inflict harm on the very people that it was trying to help.
It is difficult to ascertain whether international condemnation of its actions, a boycott of its tourism industry, or behind the scenes political intervention has pushed the D.R. into seeking a more amicable outcome to the migration issue. In mid-October, the two countries which share the island of Hispaniola met for formal talks on their trade links, development of the border and the repatriation of illegal immigrants. The re-establishment of formal diplomatic relations was also agreed. The lifting of the ban on 23 D.R. products was discussed and currently remain under discussion. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was invited to witness the negotiations, bringing oversight to the trade dispute.
But will these talks change anything for Dominicans of Haitian heritage still facing expulsion from the D.R.? It remains to be seen what decisions will be made regarding the descendants of Haitian migrants, who through birth, have a claim to D.R. citizenship. Activist group We Are All Dominican NYC is monitoring the situation closely and is liaising with its peer groups in the D.R., Haiti and around the world. Ryan Hamilton of We Are All Dominican NYC says: “We encourage people to call the Dominican consulate and embassy and express their disapproval of the proposed mass deportations. We also encourage people to tweet/blog about this issue, support diaspora groups and groups in the D.R. and become involved in upcoming actions by visiting WAAD on Facebook [and] following us on Twitter….”
As with all humanitarian causes, it is grassroots movements like We Are All Dominican NYC that harness public outcry to reach the ears of governments.
In the literary world, Haitian author Edwidge Danticat has been speaking out about the crisis, calling for individuals internationally to use the power of their “economic actions” against the injustices being committed. She bemoans the apparent unwillingness of the Haitian government to receive the expelled people. On the other side of the border, the D.R. stripped writer Junot Diaz of his Order of Merit, after he openly criticized the actions of his native country. What Danticat highlights and what Diaz has experienced underlines the plight of the displaced Haitians – they exist in limbo, between one government that remains resolute in its determination to be rid of them and another that has failed to provide any help.
POTENT will continue to monitor the developments surrounding the Haitian-D.R. migration crisis. Have you been personally affected or do you have a story to share about the D.R. expulsion of Haitian migrants? Please comment below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.