Local officials denounce Dominican Republic’s planned expulsions
Hundreds of thousands could become stateless
In the wake of a growing crisis for people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, a collection of Massachusetts elected officials stood in front of the state house Tuesday to call for action on the issue. The group was led by state senator Linda Dorcena Forry of Dorchester, the state’s only elected official with Haitian roots.
“The current government of the Dominican Republic has recently implemented a series of new naturalization laws specifically aimed at ridding the country of Dominican citizens of Haitian descent,” said Senator Forry in a statement. “Hundreds of thousands are at risk of being deported out of their homeland.”
The Dominican Republic recently announced a requirement that undocumented migrant workers register their presence in the country by June 17 or risk deportation. The vast majority of migrant workers in that country are of Haitian descent. The migrants’ Dominican-born offspring also are at risk for deportation because of a controversial 2013 ruling from the Dominican high court that stripped them of their citizenship. In total, tens of thousands of people could be affected by the new policy.
In the wake of the deadline’s passing, the Haitian prime minister last week declared that his country was suffering from a humanitarian crisis, saying that as many as 14,000 people have crossed the border into Haiti.
The Dominican government has declared its immigration policy to be a sovereign matter and countered that deportations are not slated to begin until August. But human rights observers say many Haitians and Dominicans with Haitian heritage are being coerced into fleeing the country. The Dominican government has opened euphemistically-termed “welcome centers” to detain people of Haitian descent prior to deportation.
Speaking at the press conference, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano said what is happening in the Dominican Republic mirrors what is happening in the United States.
“We’ve been fighting the same issue in the United States for years,” he said. “Mass deportations are simply wrong.”
Capuano noted that the gross domestic product in the Dominican Republic is ten times that in Haiti.
“People are there for a reason. They are simply trying to make a living. They were welcomed by employers. Now they’re being pushed out by the government.”
Forry organized the press conference to call on the Dominican Republic to reverse its policy and announce that she and her colleagues will soon file a joint resolution in the Massachusetts House and Senate to denounce the Caribbean nation’s actions.
“The Dominican Republic should reverse this policy immediately and clearly state that it will not target Dominicans of Haitian descent for this heartless action,” she said.
Cambridge City Councilor Dennis Benzan, who filed a similar ordinance in Cambridge, said he was not yet ready to call for a boycott on the Dominican Republic, saying that it would adversely affect the lowest-paid people in the Dominican economy.
Capuano, too, said the U.S. government should exhaust all diplomatic avenues before considering “other levers.”
“It is my hope that the Dominican government will come to their senses,” he said.
The local officials who attended the press conference also included state representatives Russell Holmes and Dan Cullinane and City Councilor Tim McCarthy.