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Home: The Toast

Today is the final day for thousands of people with Haitian ancestry living in the Dominican Republic to prove they have a right to continue living there. From Here and Now:

“The Dominican government says that after 7 p.m. tomorrow, anyone who can’t show papers proving they’re in the country legally will be subject to expulsion. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians and people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic have been scrambling to abide…deportees will include people born in the country, who had once believed they were Dominican citizens.”

From the New York Times: In 2013, “a constitutional court moved to strip the citizenship of children born to Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic dating as far back as 1929. Many of the people affected by the ruling had lived their whole lives in the Dominican Republic and knew nothing of Haiti, not even the native language.

International outcry prompted the government to soften its stance somewhat with a law the next year. It promised citizenship to children whose births were registered in the nation’s civil registry, and a chance at nationalization for those not formally registered.

Advocates and international legal bodies said it still fell short. Anything less than full citizenship left these people stateless, belonging neither to their birthplace nor their family’s homeland, they argued.”

How many are vulnerable? The common reference is over 100,000. Rachel Nolan, who reported on the impending deportation in Harper’s, writes 210,000. I’ve also heard between 300,000 and 500,000. But who knows? And what will be the criteria to decide once the expulsions get underway and achieve self-propulsion? Already in poor neighborhoods they are sweeping up “dark-skinned Dominicans with Haitian facial features.”

The Dominican government has set up a number of centers where Dominicans of Haitian descent can try to “regularize” their status, and thus avoid being expelled. It’s a charade. The offices are overcrowded, understaffed, and the needed paperwork doesn’t exist (many Dominicans of Haitian descent were born in rural areas, since their parents came to work the sugar fields, with midwifes and not in hospitals, and were therefore never issued birth certificates).

An aid worker based in the poorer barrios of Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata (the two primary hubs of Haitian immigrants in the DR), who doesn’t want to be named, writes that three days ago, on June 9, local Dominican television media reported that the government solicited transportation companies for up to three dozen large passenger buses to be available on a rotating basis, with an implicit understanding that these would be used for pending deportation trips. “This,” he said, “is an extremely ominous sign.”

“Everything,” the aid worker says, “is set for the deportation.”

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