By Samuel M. Pierre
Samuel M. Pierre (@senatorpierre) is the cofounder and executive director at the Haitian American Caucus, a community development nonprofit organization and a former director of African American & Caribbean Affairs for former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Community Affairs Unit.
America is the rare example of a nation that encourages immigration. Most countries promote emigration to other nations in the hopes that its expatriated people will do well beyond their border and generate wealth, while popularizing the culture and reputation of their home nation.
However, all too often, the host country treats those looking for a better life with scorn and disdain. It manifests in the form of social norms or legal mandates that create classes of persons: natural-born, nationalized citizens, and those without such legal designation.
The Dominican Republic is a prime example. The country’s social norms and laws are crushing the relatives of Haitians in America. Men and women who left loved ones to secure stable, but low-paying jobs, are watching as their relatives are forcibly expelled from the Dominican Republic. The situation makes for a terrible combination of ostracization and economic oppression that hurts both immigrants and their new home.
Those who are now stateless were not stateless last year. Their lineage in the Dominican Republic comes from their forefather’s choice to pursue economic opportunity through work that was low-skill and low-paid, but plentiful in the D.R. for decades.
Agriculture required a critical mass of underpaid workers to sustain foreign companies and Dominican aristocracy. The Haitians who travelled to the Dominican Republic are victims of a system that led to indebtedness and limited opportunity for future generations of Dominico-Haitians.
At a time when international diplomacy is the flavor of the day, there aren’t any outside influences or attempts to curb the Dominican Republic’s activities.
As a Haitian American and founder of advocacy group the Haitian American Caucus (HAC), everyday I encounter people whose families looked elsewhere for opportunity than the United States. Their lives here in Brooklyn are still tied to those who decided to immigrate to other countries. HAC routinely fields requests for help from people in New York who have not yet had the opportunity to earn enough or be educated enough to facilitate change for their families back home or elsewhere, such as the Dominican Republic.
Despite our considerable growth as an advocacy group in the past five years, we are stumped on how best to help people whose families face this predicament.
Raising awareness on the matter is necessary but hardly sufficient.
A wholesale overhaul of what the Dominican Republic is doing must happen, but for now, a slightly more American attitude toward Dominicans of Haitian descent would do wonders in alleviating the awful situation faced by immigrants and their children who once had a state to call home.
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