Horror in Hispaniola

Imagine if Canada passed a law where anyone born after a certain year that was not of Canadian ancestry was suddenly stripped of his or her citizenship and had to reapply for citizenship, regardless of them being born in Canada.

Next, imagine all of those people being deported to countries where they don’t speak the language and have little or no remaining ties to the culture. As well, add in high levels of racism from the recipient countries towards people from Canada.

What you’re imagining is the current crisis happening to people of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

As of May last year, anyone born after 1929 that is not of Dominican ancestry could be stripped of his or her citizenship and has to reapply for citizenship. This month was the deadline to secure (nearly impossible to access) documents that would allow them to stay in the country before they are deported.

Most of the people are Haitian, and the Dominican government stated this was an immigration cleansing. New York-based legal officer Cassandre Theano made a statement to parallel the current crisis in the Dominican to the ethnic cleansing of Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Germany prior to World War II.

Many of the affected people have no ties to Haiti anymore, do not speak the language and are not being welcomed by the nation. Although the Haitian earthquake in 2010 pushed many refugees into the Dominican, thousands and thousands more people have been living in the country for generations.

These people call the Dominican home and now it will be taken from them. Haiti does not have the resources to handle the immigrants and the volume of people being brought into the country will likely cause a refugee crisis.

Given the past history of racism in the Dominican towards Haitians and the brutality that was the Haitian occupation of the Dominican, people are worried and rightfully so.

The Dominican government is sending an incredibly large population to an immensely poor country that has no infrastructure or ability to receive such a population. The act is dangerous and irresponsible and is being condemned by leaders around the globe.

I have become close with a woman whose remarkable family has some deep ties to a village near Puerto Plata, on the northern border of the Dominican Republic. We will be travelling to this village together in October with a group of volunteers to assist with a feeding program.

She is extremely worried for her loved ones. She put me in contact with her brother-in law who is in the village near Puerto Plata who has been updating me on the status and atmosphere of the area.

Bill Reimer, my contact in the Dominican said things have been very quiet in the village, which is almost as alarming as actual conflict. He said many of the people in the village are unsure of their fate and people are doing the only thing they can do – waiting.

Many of the children that access the feeding program are of Haitian descent. Most have not received the appropriate documents to be granted citizenship because the government is corrupt and has created a near-impossible system of accessing these documents. For months people have been looped through an application process where ultimately less than 1,000 of the 250,000 ex-citizens have received new documentation.

June 17th was the date stated by the Dominican government for when they would begin the deportation process. Signs like the government purchasing a large amount of busses and sending large military presences to towns pointed towards what looked like mass round-ups of the ex-citizens.

An announcement came on June 21st that the Dominican government would be holding off deportations for 45 more days.

I’m disgusted and scared and the journalist in me is screaming for a plane ticket so I would feel less helpless. I’m nervous for my friend and their family. Her adoptive children are from the Dominican Republic and from Haiti, so I see this issue as something that affects people in my community.

Here’s a brief reminder of the history between the Dominican Republic and Haiti – the Dominican government sponsored a genocide in 1937 that actually raised the water levels in the area because so much blood was spilled. It was entirely guided by racism towards those of Haitian descent. As well, during the Haitian occupation of the country, it was noted around the world as a brutal and hostile time period.

Things are not looking good for many people in Hispaniola. With such a history of violence between the two nations, one can only presume that this will end poorly.

Hopefully we’re surprised.


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