By Carlotta Mohamed
U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson and The Raben Group hosted a brief conference call on Tuesday, as panelists of experts clarified issues about the Dominican Republic’s mass deportation of 200,000 Dominico-Haitians. The Florida politician’s district makes up the largest Haitian-American population in the United States.
The situation between the Dominican Republic and Haiti has led to some confusion of late, said Professor Ediberto Roman, a faculty member of the Florida International University College of Law. It’s a debate that is highly characterized as an immigration issue.
It is an issue of human rights and constitutional law relating to citizens, he said. We’re talking about “generations of individuals in the Dominican Republic that saw themselves as citizens, said Professor Roman.
“The law applies to everyone not just Dominicans of Haitian descent,” said Cassandra Theano, an associate legal officer for the Open Society Justice Initiative. “Treatment of Dominicans of Haitian descent have been different…there have been delays of Haitians getting into civil registry offices for their papers.”
Over the years in the Dominican Republic, new immigration laws have emerged diminishing the political rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent from 1929 to 2010; law 169-14 created two categories of people affected by the 2013 court ruling: Group A and B.
Group A consists of people who have been able to register for citizenship, whereas in Group B, Dominicans of Haitian descent were unable to register on the June 17 deadline and are currently stateless, said Theano.
As of June 23, nearly 9,000 Dominico-Haitians have been able to register for their citizenship, according to the Robert. F Kennedy Human Rights Center.
Beneco Enecia, director of the Center for Sustainable Development (CEDESO), is currently working with volunteers to help nearly 2000 people affected by this move. Roughly 700 of the displaced people were born prior to 2010 but have no legal status, while 595 are being denied status by the government.
“Twenty-two families remain at the Dominican Republic’s border fearful of losing very few things they have,” said Enecio. “Many are women with children who have nothing to go back to in Haiti; they’re fearful and disoriented.”
The Dominican Republic continues to deport undocumented migrants, and expelling many Dominicans of Haitian descent with legitimate rights to Dominican nationality, since they lack access to proper documentation, according to The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Center.
The international community has been quite silent about the issue, said Angelita Baeyens, from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. So far, CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) has only denounced the Dominican Republic’s ruling.
“We must work toward a solution that maintains regional stability. An injustice anywhere, is a threat to injustice everywhere,” said U.S. Representative Congresswoman Wilson.
“We will continue to hold hearings and put pressure on the government. This is an international issue where we’ve got to act and hopefully we’ll be having another update soon about progress being made.”