Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Haitian descendants fear mass deportation from the Dominican Republic (June 17, 2015)

Today marks the deadline for hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrant workers -- mostly Haitian -- living in the Dominican Republic to register their presence, in hopes of being allowed to stay. 

Dominican authorities have reportedly lined up a fleet of buses and established processing centers on the border with Haiti, prompting widespread fears of mass roundups of Dominicans of Haitian descent, according to The Guardian
The Washington Post reports that "the government has described it, in terms chillingly reminiscent of the Holocaust, as a 'cleansing' of the country's immigration rolls."

The buses are a sign of planned mass deportation, according the Post, though authorities deny that plan. The Nation reports that the army official in charge of deportation has said detentions could start tomorrow and that seven camps have been built to house those rounded up for potential deportation.

According to the Dominican Republic some 240,000 workers started the registration process, but that is less than half of the estimated 524,000 migrant workers in the country, reports the New York Times. Those who do not receive permission to stay face the threat of deportation. Workers who have begun the registration period have a 45-day grace period to complete it.

However of the applicants only 10,000 have successfully met all the requirements, and only 300 have actually received permits, notes The Guardian.

Human rights groups had hoped the deadline would be delayed, considering the difficulties many migrants faced producing the necessary documents and clearing bureaucratic hurdles. For many Haitians it has been difficult to obtain identity documents from their their country's embassy, and their employers, who are loathe to admit hiring people illegally, according to The Guardian. The Washington Post refers to a "maze of rules" created by government authorities over the past year and a half.

Though authorities deny that there will be roundups and massive deportation, the country’s director of migration, told local press that 2,000 police and military officers and 150 inspectors had received special training for deportations, reports The Guardian.

Some 40,000 people were deported this year, under an ongoing operation known as The Shield, according to The Guardian. Human rights groups have said that some people were rounded up and taken to the border while on their way to apply for residency.

Tensions in Santo Domingo are running high. Haiti Libre reports that Dominican police violently dispersed a group of undocumented migrants attempting to forcefully enter the Ministry of the Interior on Monday.

Authorities say the crushing lines at some registration centers are part of a plan by paramilitary groups -- including the Tonton Macoute -- seeking to pressure the government into pushing forward the deadline, according to an official quoted in Dominican Today. But the threat of deportation and the difficulties in obtaining permits seem a more likely explanation for the long lines.

An aide worker, in dialogue with Ryot, notes that note that the implementation of this policy coincides with the launch of presidential, parliamentary, and municipal campaigns in advance of the 2016 elections.

The DR made headlines two years ago when authorities moved to strip as many as 200,000 Dominican-born children of Haitian immigrants of their citizenship, a move that would leave them effectively stateless, despite having lived in the DR their entire lives. However, international outcry led the government to back off and that group does not appear to be the target of the current deportation move, according to the New York Times.

But other newspapers  say that the group does face deportation as a result of the policies, and interview frightened descendants of Haitian migrants who have never even visited their supposed home country. The Washington Post notes that the debate is framed as an immigration issue, but many of the people who will be targeted are not in fact migrants.

Many descendants of Haitian migrants were never registered at birth. A law passed last year by the government allows them to request residency permits as foreigners, and to apply for naturalization after two years. But that falls short of the full citizenship they deserve. A naturalized citizen cannot run for high office, for example. Many organizations have urged the Dominican-born children of undocumented migrants have resisted the registration. It's unclear whether they would be able to avoid deportation under current guidelines, reports The Guardian. 

Registration for nationalization is a byzantine process according to The Nation, "riddled with corruption, bribery, impossible bureaucratic hurdles, long lines, and pepper spray." Ryot's source addresses some of the difficulties faced by Haitian descendants who do want to register: many were born in in rural sugar-cane cutting communities (bateyes) or semi-urban slums (barrios) and without access to clinical paperwork, and thus cannot register. They must also come up with the $42 fee (about four days wages in the DR) and transport themselves to a major city where the immigration offices are set up. "If they have trouble spelling their full names, or transliterating the Kreyol spelling into Spanish, then they cannot register."

There is relatively little international outcry regarding this deportation threat, largely because most countries want to be able to continue their own deportation policies, says Liliana Gamboa, who coordinates an anti-discrimination project for the Open Society Foundations in the Dominican Republic, quoted in the New York Times.

CNN notes that the problem of what to do with thousands of undocumented migrants is hardly unique in the region, the U.S. being a prime example.

Cassandre Theano, a legal officer at OSF, is quoted in the Washington Post saying the comparisons between the Dominican government's actions and the denationalization of Jews in Nazi Germany are justified.

Human rights groups worry that the criteria for deportation will be racially determined, and that darker skin will make people targets. Theano says the proceedure for finding Haitians on registries will involve identifying Haitian-sounding names, then forcing Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent to prove that they are citizens.

Haitians have long crossed the border to work for their wealthier neighbor, notes the New York Times. Many have occupied low-income jobs that Dominicans don't want to occupy, such as sugar cane cutters and domestic workers.

But the border across the island of Hispaniola has a darker history, explains the Washington Post. The 1937 Parsley Massacre, carried out by dictator Rafael Trujillo against Haitians (and Dominicans dark-skinned enough to pass for them), killed as many as 20,000 people. Rachel Nolan has an in-depth piece on their situation in May's Harpers. Suspected Haitian migrants were forced to say "perejil," the Spanish word for parsley, and were given away by their inability to roll the "r" in the Spanish. Dominicans simply referred to the killings as "el corte," the cutting.

Border of Lights, an organization dedicated to the memory of the killing explains that the policy marked the beginning of a long-term demonization of Haitians in the DR. Such discrimination is what led to the practise of not recognizing citizenship rights of Dominican-born children of Haitian migrants, for example. 
Rachel Nolan has an in-depth piece on their situation in May's Harpers. She examines the international reaction to the taking away of citizenship of Haitian descendants and racist politics in the DR. Haitian homes are frequently burned and migrants murdered outside of Santo Domingo, she says. The Huffington Post reported on a lynching in February.

"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," reports Nolan.

News Briefs
  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff seems to have buried the hatchet with the U.S., following two  years of diplomatic tension after Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Rousseff and the national oil company, Petrobras. Foreign Policy quotes sources saying that Washington made some concessions in order to facilitate the rapprochement, though it notes that there have been no public guarantees that the U.S. will stop spying on foreign citizens. The Foreign Policy piece makes the case that Rousseff, embattled by accusations of corruption and a weakened economy, can no longer afford a rift with such a powerful ally as the U.S. Standing up to the U.S. plays well to her base, according to the piece, but her most important challenges come from the right.
  • But other pieces note that challenges from the left shouldn't be underestimated though. Rousseff will veto a hike in pension benefits today, according to Reuters, because she believe it jeopardizes the future of Brazil's social security system. The bill, which makes retirement age more flexible was supported by ally lawmakers, including some from her Workers' Party, and are seen as a pushback to unpopular austerity measures pushed by her finance minister. (See last weeks WSJ piece on divisions within her party.)
  • A high level delegation of opposition senators from Brazil has been granted permission to land in Venezuela in a military plane, reports El País. They will attempt to meet with jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López and convince government authorities to release him and other political prisoners. Up until now, Venezuelan authorities have blocked all foreign dignitaries attempting to visit the Ramo Verde prison where López has been held for the past year.
  • López is on the fourth week of a partial hunger strike that has made him lose 12 kilos, reportsReuters. Opposition parties say around 100 others have also begun partial hunger-strikes - taking water and serum but not solids - in public places and jails.
  • Six months after Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced a historic diplomatic thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, the two nations still have not succeeded in reestablishing full-fledged embassies, reports the AP. The drawn out process shows the complexity of negotiations, though the process has strong public backing in both countries.  
  • And corporations remain particularly interested. The Miami Herald reports that major U.S. companies -- including Cargill, Procter & Gamble, and Caterpillar -- are supporting Engage Cuba, a new bi-partisan coalition that began operating yesterday. The group will focus on lobbying Congress to lift trade and travel restrictions on Cuba.
  • CICIG and Public Ministry investigations in Guatemala show that money skimmed from tax coffers by La Línea, the multi million dollar customs fraud network, actually entered the banking system through several sham corporations. Plaza Pública has an in-depth report on two accounts, registered to Corpogold, a company that received government contracts for Q 12.49 million and the networks general modus operandi. TeleSur also has details on the inner workings of La Línea. Documents seized by investigators show that on just two days in October 2014, the Tax Authority received about US$156,000, while the fraud network scooped close to US$72,000. Media consortium figure Salvador Gonzalez is allegedly responsible for receiving and distributing cash to the network, which operated with four separate bank accounts used to deposit and promptly withdraw large sums of money.
  • A civic rebellion in Guatemala, born of frustration with corruption schemes like La Línea, is threatening Otto Pérez Molina's presidency in its final months. Fusion has a piece on how the movement grew through social media, started by one angry Facebook post. The piece profiles Gabriel Wer, a 33-year-old business administrator who is leading ongoing protests under the umbrella #RenuncieYa. (The OAS passed a proposal this week against any breach of the constitutional order in Guatemala, urging elections to be held on Sept. 6 as scheduled. Seeyesterday's post.)
  • Daniel Scioli, one of the presidential frontrunners in Argentina, selected Carlos Zannini, a close collaborator of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as his running mate. The move ties the governor of Buenos Aires province and former VP to Nestor Kirchner closer to Cristina, and increases his chances of winning the October elections, reports Bloomberg. Zannini has been the government's legal secretary for 12 years. But the choice leads analysts to believe that he will be loathe to change the Kirchner's economic policies. Though Scioli has said that change is needed, he hasn't proposed specific measures to address Argentina's economic situation, reports Reuters.

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