In Sept 2013, a Dominican court ruled that 200,000+ natural-born citizens whose parents were undocumented Haitian workers were no longer entitled to citizenship, rendering them stateless and helpless before the law.
It's part of a long tradition of militarized, racist pogroms against Haitians, who are black, and Dominicans, who consider themselves white (Dominicans who come to the USA are often more sympathetic to Haitians, possibly because they are viewed as black by many Americans).
The statelessness of the Dominicans has put them in many kinds of jeopardy, not least from exploitative employers -- Haitians do some of the DR's most menial and underpaid jobs. Meanwhile, Dominican politicians look to America's example in justifying their treatment of these natural-born ex-citizens, and propose building a wall along their border.
Haiti is the poorest nation in the hemisphere, and with good reason: the ex-slave-colony was forced to ransom itself from France and spent the next 122 years exporting a huge slice of its GDP to its former colonial owners -- over $21.7B, which France refuses to return.
Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, racist politicians trade on the simmering national nostalgia for a deposed fascist dictator (Reagan called him the "father of Dominican democracy"), giving Nazi salutes as they're sworn into Congress.
To give you a flavor of the establishment's position, here's a keynote speech by a prominent ex-judge to a conference of the National Association of Independent Lawyers:
Pantaleón, a stocky man with gray hair combed back in a George Washington flip, began with remarks on Dominican sovereignty. He called the Sentence an “extraordinary synthesis” that had been smeared with “distortions and disinformation of the most repugnant kind.” Juliana Deguis, he argued, might make a “presumptuous” claim on nationality, “but she isn’t Dominican.” The audience interrupted him to applaud.
Pantaleón turned to Haiti, a “failed state” suffering a demographic explosion. “Culturally, and this also happens in Africa, the man doesn’t use controls on his sexuality or contraception.” Pantaleón told the audience that Haiti has the highest birthrate in the Western Hemisphere. (This is incorrect.) Referring to Deguis, he said, “the point is that this woman, Haitian, here is not going to get rid of her ancestral custom by crossing the border or getting I.D.’s. You don’t change identity like you change underwear.
“We must suppose that these habits and customs are encouraged here because of a health system that has considerably reduced infant mortality. What operated as a natural and unfortunate population control in Haiti doesn’t exist here. Of seven children, here all of them will live. What will happen in fifteen years?” he asked. “I don’t think I’m a fascist to talk about this, because it is reality.” In fifteen years, he declared, “the Dominican Republic will confront the greatest of its challenges, that of possibly being a minority in our own country.”
Pantaleón is not by any means the most radical anti-Haitian in the D.R. He is not a member of the “night guard,” which patrols the capital. He does not burn out Haitian homes or murder immigrants, as frequently happens outside the capital, where poor Haitians and Dominicans live cheek by jowl. The agricultural and border regions in particular experience long stretches of peace punctuated by violence: one-off attacks on Haitians as they pass through forested parts of the border on foot, retaliation against large groups of Haitians when rumor spreads that a Haitian has killed or robbed a Dominican.
When anti-Haitian feeling flares in the D.R., it can reach the level of superstition, or paranoia. Some believe a disastrous earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 because Haitians, unlike Dominicans, are not “a people of God.” Others posted on Facebook that it was a pity the earthquake had not killed all Haitians. A number of people told me about the so-called Plan de las Potencias (“Plan of the Powers”), a plot by the United Nations, United States, and European Union to fold Haiti into the Dominican Republic, thereby absolving the great powers of responsibility for what right-wing nationalists call the failed state next door. The plan is top secret, naturally, but Bill Clinton supposedly let it slip at a convention at Punta Cana. One professor told me that belief in the Plan of the Powers, as ludicrous as it may sound, is not uncommon among her colleagues at the Autonomous University.
Displaced in the D.R. [Rachel Nolan/Harper's]
(Image: Pierre Michel Jean)