By Vania Andre
New York’s Dominican community came out in a show of solidarity on Wednesday to protest the planned deportations of tens of thousands of Dominico-Haitians from the Dominican Republic.
On June 17, New Yorkers of Dominican descent protested outside of the Dominican consulate near Times Square, to show their stance against the country’s controversial immigration policy, which could render thousands of Dominico-Haitians stateless. The organizers of the protest planned the demonstration as part of a larger anti-racism push in the Dominican Republic.
“I’m here, standing in solidarity with Dominicans of Haitian descent who are set to be deported in the hundreds of thousands,” Emmanuel Pardilla, one of the protesters, said. “There isn’t a government in the world that’s denationalizing a group of people, and there isn’t a single international body that’s doing something about it.”
In 2013, a Dominican court ruled to retroactively change the criteria needed to obtain nationality for those born to immigrant parents after 1929. Once international pressure set in, the Dominican government passed a new law in May 2014 that extended citizenship to Dominicans of Haitians descent, who were able to provide proof of their Dominican nationality.
On June 16 the registration process to provide proof and apply for legal status in the Dominican Republic ended.
New York City’s elected officials and leaders have come out in defense of the Dominico-Haitians.
“I call on the Dominican government to respect basic rights guaranteed to all people, including Dominicans of Haitian descent, under international law,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
People of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic are being “unjustly stripped of their nationality and legal status, just because of their heritage.”
There are roughly 600,000 Haitians living in the U.S., with the vast majority in New York and Florida.
“I believe that Haitians constitute one of the largest ethnic groups in New York State,” Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte said during an event hosted by the Brooklyn Historical Society last month. Bichotte is the first Haitian American from the city elected to the NYS Assembly.
In May, the New York State Assembly passed a resolution, introduced by Bichotte, condemning the denationalization of Dominico-Haitians.
This vote “sends an unequivocal message that the Dominican Republic’s persistent abuse of Dominicans of Haitian descent must stop,” Bichotte said after the resolution was adopted.
Ethnic tensions between Dominicans and Haitians have existed for decades on the island both groups call home. Racial strains came to an all-time high during the 1937 Parsley Massacre, when thousands of Haitians were slaughtered by Dominican troops at the order of Dominican president Rafael Trujillo.
“Our cultures are different but similar in so many ways,” one of the protesters said. “We are brothers and sisters in one island, both colonized people who have liberated ourselves from [colonialism]. We need to build on that.”
A petition urging the Obama administration to pressure the Dominican government to halt the deportations has garnered nearly 35,000 signatures.
CLICK HERE to sign the petition.