In just two days, almost a quarter of a million people of Haitian and non-Dominican Republic descent will be left homeless, stateless, and without civil rights. This is predominantly due to the fact that racial injustice is a very prominent feature in the country. But according to the government, it is merely a part of an immigration process.
In September 2013, the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court revoked Dominican citizenship for Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian parentage who did not posses legal immigration status retroactive to 1929, even though they may have a Dominican Republic birth certificate.
Then, after an international outcry and pressure from the UN, CARICOM, and several other organizations, the government passed Law 169-14, which was supposedly intended to allow Haitians and those of Haitian descent to register for citizenship by June 17.
If after 7 p.m. on Wednesday these hundreds of thousands of people are not able to show paperwork proving that they are in the country legally, they will be subject to extradition.
And although officials claim that a mass deportation will not occur, there have been 12 buses prepared by authorities, and a processing center along the Haitian border has been opened to expedite repatriation.
Furthermore, those who have attempted to acquire the legal paperwork to remain in the Dominican Republic have been continually faced with hurdles – including being incessantly sent away from the offices of the Interior Minister for “sufficient” documentation to complete the application process.
“You still have to bring more papers. It’s always hard, but we’ll see,” said 28-year-old bricklayer Aime Morette as he waited to submit his application in a long line of more than 140 other people.
According to ABC News, in a 2014 initiative, the Dominican government stated that it would consider granting legal residency to non-citizens if they could establish their identity and prove that they entered the country before October 2011.
This proposal is said to have come about in an attempt to regulate the migration of workers crossing the border from Haiti.
But there’s a catch.
Morette, who’s been living in the Dominican Republic most of his life, and thousands of other people are faced with the same issue – employers in the country are not providing workers with the necessary documentation to prove that they’ve lived in the Dominican Republic long enough to qualify for legal residency.
Additionally, processing fees are hiked in such a way that many people cannot afford to pay them, and a slow processing system also adds to the hindrance.
“If Dominican-Haitians do not have a birth certificate, a common problem here since many Dominican-Haitians were born in rural sugar-cane cutting communities (bateyes) or semi-urban slums (barrios) and without access to clinical paperwork, then they are incapable of registering,” said Arian, an aid worker on the ground in the Dominican Republic.
“If they cannot afford the $42 fee, about 4 days’ wages here (which is assuming that they have a steady job), then they cannot register. If they do not have the logistical or transportation capability to come into a major city where the immigration offices are set up, then they cannot register. If they have trouble spelling their full names, or transliterating the Kreyol spelling into Spanish, then they cannot register,” he told Ryot.
It’s been estimated that up to half a million people are at risk of displacement, with only a few persons being able to provide the required paperwork.
According to Interior Minister Ramon Fadul, the application process has been started by about 250,000 people – however, only 10,000 of them have met the prerequisites to become legal residents. And no more than 300 people have received legal permits so far.
There have also been mass sweeps reportedly happening in certain poor neighborhoods, whereby dark-skinned people have been harassed, detained, and occasionally released.
The threat of deportation of these individuals of Haitian ethnicity has sparked several international protests concerned with the gross violation of human rights, including a “Black Lives Matter in the Dominican Republic” rally in New York.
[Image via DailyKos]