Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on The Nation. We have republished an excerpt here.
Last week, I wrote that the Dominican Republic has summarily stripped over a hundred thousand Dominicans born in the DR of Haitian parents of their citizenship and is threatening to deport them to Haiti. And though initial reports suggested that the deadline for deportation might be delayed, it now seems to be going forward as planned: In four days, hundreds of thousands of people in the Western Hemisphere will become stateless.
Where is the US press? Why aren’t they covering it? And why the silence from human-rights groups? The main page of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch has three posts on Venezuela. Nothing on the Dominican Republic. HRW’s director Ken Roth is a prolific voice on Twitter—yet nothing on the topic since November 11, 2014 (but do a Twitter search for @KenRoth and Venezuela and bathe in the stream).
The pope has spoken out, sort of. He told Dominican bishops that they “cannot be indifferent to the plight of Haitian immigrants.” Yet the impending expulsion will not be of immigrants but Dominicans of Haitian descent, born in the Dominican Republic, with family and friends and property and work in the Dominican Republic; many of them have never been to Haiti or know anyone in Haiti (though the Dominican press insists on calling them “Haitians”).
How many are vulnerable? The common reference is over 100,000. Rachel Nolan, who reported on the impending deportation in Harper’s, writes 210,000. I’ve also heard between 300,000 and 500,000. But who knows? And what will be the criteria to decide once the expulsions get underway and achieve self-propulsion? Already in poor neighborhoods they are sweeping up “dark-skinned Dominicans with Haitian facial features.”
The Dominican government has set up a number of centers where Dominicans of Haitian descent can try to “regularize” their status, and thus avoid being expelled. It’s a charade. The offices are overcrowded, understaffed, and the needed paperwork doesn’t exist (many Dominicans of Haitian descent were born in rural areas, since their parents came to work the sugar fields, with midwifes and not in hospitals, and were therefore never issued birth certificates).
An aid worker based in the poorer barrios of Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata (the two primary hubs of Haitian immigrants in the DR), who doesn’t want to be named, writes that three days ago, on June 9, local Dominican television media reported that the government solicited transportation companies for up to three dozen large passenger buses to be available on a rotating basis, with an implicit understanding that these would be used for pending deportation trips. “This,” he said, “is an extremely ominous sign.”
Read the full piece at The Nation.