The Spotlight

Dominican Republic New Citizenship Law: A Litmus Test For The Haitian Government

Dr ruling protest image

By Ed Gehy

The Haitian-Dominican problem did not start yesterday; thus no viable solution can be found overnight. Haiti shares the same island with Dominican Republic; but relations between the two countries have never been more strained in recent history than they are now.

A gruesome reminder of the Dominican inhuman treatment of Haitians came as recently as last week when a Haitian immigrant was found hung in a public park in the city of Santiago, north of Santo Domingo.

Modern day critics have a tendency to compare Haiti to its neighbor only based on Haiti’s current state of affairs. Such a way of thinking is factually misleading. Historical reports suggest that Haiti had a more developed economy than Santo Domingo when both countries were colonized by foreign powers.

The question then becomes, “How does the country of Dessalines get to that level, and why is there so much resentment toward Haiti?”

Time and again, if one analyzes the relations between the two countries by going as far back as a century or so, the answer to the previous question is multi factorial: race, the painful reminder of Haiti twenty- two year occupation and bad governance in Haiti.

Governments have come and gone; none have ever seriously taken steps to alleviate the socio-economic conditions of the Haitian Diaspora living on the other side of the island. Instead, we only witness missed opportunities to uphold the dignity of Haiti abroad.

The most famous example is the Parsley Massacre. In 1937, about 20,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic were murdered mercilessly under the presidency of Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina.

Stenio Vincent, the Haitian president at the time, was not even strong enough to make Trujillio pay for the racially-motivated genocide. To make matter worse, the victim families were never fully compensated due to institutionalized corruption inside the government. If there was the absence of a responsible government during the presidency of Vincent, relations between the two countries weren’t any better during the presidency of Vincent successor, former President Elie Lescot. Unfortunately, this type of dysfunction and culture of corruption still prevails today.

Trujillo and Haitian president

President Stenio Vincent and President Trujillo in 1934.

 

In 2013 the Dominican constitutional court voted to strip citizenship from Dominicans of Haitian descent.  With the Martelly administration, here again we see a government that does not spend its resources where it should.

At the beginning of his presidency, the slogan was to put Haiti back on the international map through tourism by showing off Haiti natural beauties. Though, such ambition was worthy, a responsible government with a thinking head would know that in order to bring about the type of change Haiti so badly needs, it should focus on its internal affairs first, before tackling measures to improve its façade externally. Doing otherwise would be like putting the cart before the horse.

Upholding the image of Haiti in Santo Domingo; improving the socio-economic conditions of Haitians living in the batey (shanty worker towns) are too important of an issue not to be addressed first. Geopolitically, both countries are important to each other.  The Haitian government would be better off finding ways to resolve immigrations. This should have been a top priority.

In the U.S., and several other countries around the world, a person born in the U.S. is a citizen regardless of the status of his parents.

By global comparison, Dominican Republic stands alone in taking such unfair and inhuman decisions. In this day and age, why can’t the Dominican Republic be in sync with the rest of the countries in the Americas?

Most countries grant citizenship based on two principles: Jus sanguinis (Latin for “Right of blood”), and Jus soli (Latin for “Right of the soil”). Regardless of what angle one may look at this issue, these immigrants more than deserve to be granted Dominican citizenship.

The Haitian government should work nonstop to gather international support to isolate the Dominican Republic. Such xenophobic attitudes, racist, and backward policies have no place in today’s circle of nations.

Had Haiti had a progressive and functional government, this problem could have been easily resolved. With barely a year left in power, the question becomes whether the Martelly administration has time to make any significant progress can be made toward finding a solution to this contentious matter. Time will tell.

Sadly, if past experiences are any indication, one can be certain future Haitian governments will only follow the footsteps of their predecessors; A politics of “do nothingness,” which only prolongs the suffering and humiliation of Haitian migrants.

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Feb. 19, 2015

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