Immigration and Statelessness in Hispaniola: the silent injustice of politics

By Joscar Matos

Joscar Matos ’16 is a guest writer majoring in Public Health 

In many ways the realities of being an immigrant transcend borders of nationalities, and in many ways these realities exist as customs, driven by a societal, political or economic force. After spending eight weeks in The Dominican Republic the latter seemed to be the case for this Caribbean island. Structural violence, a term coined by Johan Galtung and by liberation theologians during the 1960s, describes social structures—economic, political, legal, religious, and cultural—that stop individuals, groups, and societies from reaching their full potential. Galtung defines structural violence as the avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs or the impairment of human life, which lowers the actual degree to which someone is able to meet their needs.

As of June 16th 2015 both the Dominican Republic and Haiti will have done away with birthright citizenship, meaning a birth certificate no longer entails you citizenship rights, parental citizenship prevails in all cases.

Image via AP
Image via AP

The Parsley Massacre of 1937 brought upon by Dominican Dictator Rafael Trujillo, sought to cleanse the country of black citizens and ordered a military genocide of between 500 and 12,000 Haitians living near the border of the two countries. Dictator Trujillo was a strong advocate for Dominican Anti-Haitianism and politically reinforced the hatred he felt Dominicans should have for Haitians, who prior to the restoration enslaved the country for 200 years. Trujillo’s manner of thinking may still be alive today; it has built a communal sense of narcissistic egotism that afflicts those deemed lower socially. This targeted group includes not only low-income immigrants, but also people of lower socioeconomic status with long lines of Dominican heritage. However, this hate for Black Haitians is often used as a source of political unity between Dominican social classes. If there’s one thing that all social classes seem to agree upon is that no matter how poor a Dominican may be, he or she will always be socially superior to any Haitian.

Structural violence is not a social movement that occurs overnight, it is rather a long stretched struggle of power and effort to impair the rights and privileges of one or more minority groups by a group with economic, political or legal advantages over the others. In the Dominican Republic a communal wave of hatred and negative sentiments towards their neighbors to the west has not only unified, but also cemented an anti-Haitian sentiment towards Haitian Dominican and Haitian migrants.

It is suspected that of the over one million Haitian immigrants 200,000 will not have obtained legal documentation and will therefore be up for deportation. The question then becomes, how is the Dominican government identifying these individuals. The answer is legislation similar to the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, specifically Arizona Senate Bill 1070. The Arizona act made it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying the required documents, required that state law enforcement officers attempt to determine an individual’s immigration status during a “lawful stop, detention or arrest”, when there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is an illegal immigrant. The Dominican Republic has reportedly leased large buses and 2,000 military personnel, which can only mean there will be mass deportations not a case-by-case individual offense style. The Dominican Republic is endorsing military racial profiling, what some people are comparing to Hitler’s Regime. The Dominican President Danilo Medina stated in a speech delivered a few months back “I want to make it clear also that no other nation in the world, nor any international organization, can demand that the Dominican Republic make sacrifices to its migratory system, or any other sovereign right, beyond what is ordered by the laws and the constitution.”

Why is this the new legislation so unjust? For starters it has strong connotations of racial prejudice. 96% of immigrants in the Dominican Republic come from Haiti, this is an overwhelming majority of the affected by the new legislation. Of the 9/10 Haitian immigrants in the country, Dominican citizen in search of cheap manual labor illegally transported a large percentage of them. As if this didn’t seem corrupt enough, the majority of the Haitians involved in human trafficking are later employed by the State. There are also fears of abuse and human rights violations, for example no previous military training is being put in place for deportation officials. No mention of how “humanity” will be acted out in terms of processing children for deportation. And what about those individuals that have lived in the Dominican Republic their whole lives and are now being sent to a country they’ve never even been to? The most concerning thing of all is that in the midst of all these questionable violations of human rights, the Dominican citizen for the most part is standing behind their Patria (nationalist spirit) and the only concern being brought up is whether or not deporting the countries main agriculture workers will affect food prices.

Image source Associated Press  and Erika Santelices (Getty Images)


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