By MARTY GOODMAN
In a clear attempt at ethnic cleansing, hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent have been rendered stateless under Dominican law. A series of racist court rulings on immigration in 2004, 2010, and 2013 paved the way for a dragnet based on race that might result in mass expulsions.
A 2013 Constitutional Court ruling (TC 0168-13), commonly referred to as “la sentencia,” declares that those who migrated to the DR—that is, mostly Haitians—going all the way back to 1929, are deemed “in transit,” making their Dominican-born children “illegal migrants” under the law. The government has begun a “regularization program,” but only a fraction of the affected persons have applied, and still fewer have managed to obtain the documents.
The rulings are a violation of Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerning the right to nationhood.
It is estimated that there are approximately 500,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian origin in the Dominican Republic. Many thousands of possible deportees have never been to Haiti, speak only Spanish—not the native Kreyol—and don’t know anyone there. Those to be expelled to neighboring Haiti will cross into the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, still reeling from the January 2010 earthquake, which killed some 200,000 Haitians and left 1.5 million homeless.
Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian origin often cannot obtain the necessary documents, such as birth certificates (particularly in rural areas) and are often simply denied them by racist officials. The lack of proof of citizenship has been used to deprive Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian origin of the right to vote, obtain an education, get married, declare children, or seek medical care. Thousands of Union of Cane Workers members, who are mostly Haitian, are protesting to receive pensions, despite years doing back-breaking work and living in shantytown squalor.
Since the June 17 deadline to obtain documents has passed, officials vow to enforce expulsion rulings. While Dominican authorities deny that there will be mass deportations, it has been speculated that repatriations may begin after Aug. 1 at the end of a 45-day grace period for applicants. Reportedly, thousands have already crossed into Haiti “voluntarily” to avoid police or racist violence, but no firm numbers exist.
The decisions have been accompanied by an increase in racist violence. In February, a Haitian shoeshine worker, Henry Claude Jean, 35, (nicknamed “Tulile”), was hung, KKK style, in a public park in Santiago, the nation’s second most populous city. No one has been prosecuted. Ongoing mob attacks on dark-skinned individuals living in the DR have been captured on video. Nighttime police raids and vigilante justice have terrified many, who are afraid to go outside.
A Ms. Mesilus told The New York Times that she was picked up and deported to Haiti even though she had begun the registration process: “I was thrown back here because I was not carrying my document to prove I was already trying to register. They didn’t even give me the chance to explain what was happening.”
The deportations and violence have sparked mass protests by thousands in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and internationally, including several demonstrations in New York, Miami, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Montreal, Philadelphia, and Boston. New York’s “Black Lives Matter in the Dominican Republic” and “We Are All Dominicans” (both on Facebook) have been organizing protests, as well as other groups and individuals.
At a July 1 protest at the Dominican Consulate in Times Square, Dominican activist Angela Perez said, “Even though they are not Dominican citizens, they were born in Dominican territory (and) they are being discriminated against because of their descent.” Dominican activist Emanuel Pardilla led the mostly young Dominican crowd in chanting, “Dominican government, shame on you! You uphold racist rule!” and “From Charleston to the DR, Black lives matter!”
U.S. racism toward Haitians
Although the Obama administration mildly chasised Dominican expulsion policies, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last year praised the racist decisions as a “bold step” and “a path to citizenship.” In this case, the U.S. certainly practiced what it preaches. Racist deportations from the U.S. totaled over 2 million during the Obama administration, more than under any other president.
The racist Dominican ruling class can draw inspiration from U.S. immigration policy toward Haitians. During the 1980s, Haitian refugees fleeing the U.S.-backed Jean-Claude Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti were regularly “interdicted” (stopped) in international waters—a violation of international asylum law—and returned on U.S. ships into the clutches of a brutal dictatorship. If they reached South Florida, many were sent to the Krome detention center outside Miami for up two years before being released or returned to Haiti. Less than 1% received political asylum in the U.S.
In stark contrast, the mostly white, anti-Castro exiles and Eastern Bloc Europeans were given blanket amnesty and quickly released into the community. Democratic President Bill Clinton, who denounced Republican policy toward Haitians as racist in campaign speeches, quickly resumed the interdiction policies as president—but on a grander scale!
Imperialism and the Dominican Republic
”The whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally,” said U.S. President William Taft in 1912.
The Dominican Republic is a staunch anti-communist U.S. ally and pursues an economic austerity model developed by the U.S.-dominated World Bank. U.S. corporations dominate in trades where super-exploited Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent work. Migrant labor to the DR was initially spurred by Haitian farmers displaced by U.S. corporations during the first U.S. Marine occupation (1915-1934).
Sectors employing mainly Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian origin today include the growing tourism industry, construction, and sugar plantations—although less in sugar than in the past. Human rights organizations have condemned sugar plantations, known as bateyes, as “modern-day slavery.”
For decades, corrupt officials on both sides of the Haiti/DR border made crooked deals for cheap labor to cut cane, mostly at U.S.-owned sugar plantations like former giant Gulf + Western, which in the 1980s controlled 40% of DR sugar production. Declining sugar prices and downturns in the economy were used by the ruling class to launch racist scapegoating for the mass expulsion of Haitian migrants, such as in 1991 and 1999.
U.S. imperialism militarily occupied the DR between 1916-1924 under Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, seizing control of its banks and grooming Dominican military officers such as dictators Rafael Trujillo his right-hand man, Joaquin Balaguer. The U.S. invaded the DR again in 1965 to crush a nationalist rebellion. Later, Dominican territory was used as a staging area for CIA-backed Haitian paramilitary forces that crossed into Haiti and overthrew democratically elected governments in 1991 and 2004, leading to bloody massacres.
Today, the DR receives U.S. military aid and equipment—$8.6 million worth in 2012. The corrupt Dominican army plays a central role in deportations. It has mobilized 200 trucks and set up so-called processing centers on the border with Haiti.
On the other side of the border, billions in international private and governmental recovery aid to post-earthquake Haiti have been scandalously unused or squandered, amidst a feeding frenzy of private charities and Washington beltway corporations. Joblessness remains rampant, about 50% in the urban centers. Little has been organized to receive immigrants in Haiti by the corrupt U.S.-installed Haitian President Michel Martelly. The tense, unstable situation may in turn be used to reinforce the despised U.S./UN military occupation, particularly given upcoming national elections in Haiti.
The Dominican Republic reflects a capitalist world in crisis, spewing out its own proto-fascist, racist ideology. What is desperately needed (and shamefully missing) in the DR is a united workers’ struggle, one that is first and foremost anti-racist and willing to mobilize against all forms of attacks on Haitian workers and Dominicans of Haitian origin. The old slogan of the “Communist Manifesto,” “Workers of the world unite!” is as apt a battle cry as ever!
THE 1937 MASSACRE
It’s known as “anti-Haitianismo,” meaning a hostility to all that is Black in the Dominican Republic. It was developed by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, a U.S.-trained military officer under a U.S. occupation (1916-1924). Anti-Haitianismo remains the de facto state ideology.
Trujillo, an admirer of Adolph Hitler, sought to stop the “Ethiopianization” of the mostly mulatto population, despite the fact that most Dominicans would be considered Black in the U.S. and the Haitian lineage of Trujillo’s own parents.
In October 1937, Trujillo told the congregation at his church, “I found that Dominicans would be happier if we got rid of Haitians. I will fix that. Yesterday, 300 Haitians were killed … this must continue.” Throughout that night, 12,000 to 25,000 Haitians were hacked to death with machetes and knives by Dominican soldiers and farmers under their command near the aptly named Massacre River. Over a five-day period, up to 40,000 were killed.
An agreement of $750,000 indemnity was brokered by the U.S., Cuban, and Mexican governments. Trujillo’s contribution was reduced to $500,000 and delivered to Haitian authorities in Port-au-Prince. The Trujillo agent dispersed $25,000 in tens and twenties to politicians as goodwill. It is not known how much, if anything, went to the families of murdered Haitians. For some 30,000 victims, that would have amounted to $16.60 per family—if it had ever been received. In 1939, Trujillo established the “Trujillo Peace Prize.”
Photo from Jamaicans.com