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Hispaniola - Greater Antilles - Caribbean Sea

Haiti & Dominican Republic – Greater Antilles – Caribbean Region
Source: ABC Voyage

In the Dominican Republic, undocumented Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent now face mass deportation unless they can present documentation of their legal residential status. June 17, 2015, was the deadline for compliance.

Haiti, with a population of over 9.9 million, is a member state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Dominican Republic, with a population of over ten million, has CARICOM Observer status. In 2004, the country became a fully integrated member of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, since known as CAFTA-DR.

In September 2013, a Constitutional Tribunal ruling changed the DR’s citizenship policy. The ruling revoked automatic citizenship granted to children born to immigrants, as far back as 1929, throwing into a quagmire almost a quarter-million Dominicans, 83 percent of Haitian descent. Then in May 2014, the DR passed a law regulating the naturalization of people born in the country to undocumented immigrants.

By the deadline, 96 percent of applicants lacked the necessary documentation for legal resident status. Reports have surfaced that the foreign minister has extended the deadline for another 45 days.

Meanwhile, seven newly constructed deportee processing centers in the DR have begun operations. To handle the influx of arrivals, the Haitian government has created two new border repatriation centers. On June 26, Haiti’s Prime Minister Evans Paul told the foreign press that 14,000 people have already crossed the border, including migrants who left voluntarily.

The United Nations, Amnesty International, and CARICOM have condemned the September 2013 ruling. The U.S. State Department voiced measured disapproval. Haitian President Michel Martelly denounced it as “civil genocide.” Others have called it “ethnic purging.”

In their Statement on the Denaturalization and Deportation of Dominicans of Haitian Descent, the Caribbean Studies Association has called on “Caribbean governments, activists, scholars, civil society organizations, members and their affiliates to continue the work of redressing these violations [of the human right to citizenship and migration rights within the Region] and working towards social justice.”

To dismiss this crisis as mere “ethnic purging” would be a mistake. Rather, it should spur Caribbean leaders to address the fragile state of Caribbean economies that will only worsen in the years ahead as tropical storms intensify their destructive force and sea levels rise due to climate disruption.

While the economic situation in the Dominican Republic is not as dire as that in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the DR faces its own challenges of marked income inequality and an unemployment rate of 14.6 percent. The poorest half of its population receive less than one-fifth of the nation’s GDP, while the richest ten percent pockets nearly 40 percent.

Our globalized capitalist economy breeds and feeds on poverty and national indebtedness. The 200,000 or more Haitian and Dominican-born Haitians that will inundate the borderlands of the two nations will create another pool of desperate stateless people willing to work long hours for low wages, condemning them to a lifetime of poverty.

[Note: Estimated 2014 statistical data was obtained from the CIA World Factbook.]

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