Thousands to Cross the Hispaniola Border

The Dominican Republic has deported thousands of people, including both Haitians and Dominicans. Wednesday, June 17 was the deadline to legalize undocumented foreigners living in the country.

In September 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic ruled to denaturalize children of undocumented Dominican migrants born in the Dominican Republic since 1929, according to the Center for Migration Studies.

Human rights groups are calling this an act of discrimination against Haitians.

Will Guzman, Ph.D., assistant professor of History and African Studies at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), explained the history of Haiti and Dominican Republic.

“In the 1820s, Haiti goes into the Dominican Republic and takes over for about 20 years into the 1840s,” said Guzman. “Under that time period many Dominicans became very embittered and angry about Haiti encroaching into their territory and they used the differences between the two groups. Although both black, Dominicans of course, Afro-Dominicans in particular, were privileging the European world view including Catholicism versus Voudun, including language, Spanish versus French or creole.”

This embitterment would later become discrimination, in which the Dominican Republic decided to strip the citizenship of those of Haitian descent and deport hundreds of thousands of people across the border between the two countries, using skin color as a determinant of ethnicity.

Many of those people are leaving willingly, afraid to be transported by the Dominican army who will do so violently, transporting deportees at odd hours of the night at the border, sometimes with none of their belongings.

Marc Andre Obas, Pastor of Galilee Haitian Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., does not agree with how the Haitian migrants are getting treated.

“I do not like the way they are deporting them. They are going into their houses and beating them and then taking all they have before sending them to the border,” said Obas. “That is not good.”

The Haitian government is limited in what they can provide for the migrants. Many are housed in shelters that were provided for survivors of the 2010 earthquake while others are given tents as temporary sleeping quarters in large spaces of empty land.

Carolyn Pompilus, founder and president of Recycle for Haiti, Inc., recently collaborated with other organizations to protest against the deportation of Haitians in front of the Tallahassee capital building.

“I don’t think you have to be Haitian for you to step up and say, this is obviously insane. This is obviously not right,” said Pompilus. “Anyone that speaks for justice and equality should definitely say something.”

Elson Auquel, a foreign exchange student at FAMU who came from Haiti two weeks ago, he spoke about the process from his point of view in Haiti.

“I saw when they were taking a lot of people, a lot of families with all their belongings, coming into Haiti, where there are already many problems,” said Auquel.

Auquel believes these problems are stemming from the Haitian government’s heavy focus on election rather than resolving the issues between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“I do not think there are any programs being created for them because the main focus for the country right now is the elections.”

Guzman believes that a blind eye is turned to Hispaniola in the wake of other international crises such as Greece’s debt. This is preventing any type of intervention that could provide the necessary resources to resolve this possible disaster for the island.

“What you see are tent cities being built in order to temporarily house these migrants and that of course is going to be a tremendous health hazard whereby potential diseases will proliferate due to the close proximity of people and not having access to proper sanitation,” said Guzman. “But then it also speaks to the unfortunate economic situation that the Haitian government finds itself whereby they don’t have the infrastructure, the resources nor the finances in order to properly address this issue.”