Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Haitian migrants in the DR - an example of broader international migration issues (July 7, 2015)

Several recent piece look at the situation for Haitian migrants and descendants in the Dominican Republic. Though official deportations have not begun since the deadline for undocumented migrants to register passed, over 31,000 Haitians have crossed over the border. Though these are theoretically voluntary departures, there are reports of Haitians being threatened and forced out. There is a trend, on the one hand, to draw parallels with larger issues of international migration, and on the other, to demonize the particulars of the DR situation.

New York Times op-ed piece makes the case that the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is undergoing a human rights crisis as the DR attempts to expel hundreds of thousands of Haitian migrants and Dominican born Haitian descendants. (See June 17th's post.) (Check out Vice's pictures of self-deporting Haitians.)

Ten years ago, Roxanna Altholz and Laurel E. Fletcher sued the Dominican Republic in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on behalf of two Haitian girls, challenging the onerous and expensive requirements Haitian parents who sought to obtain birth certificates for their Dominican-born children faced. Now they call on the DR to stop roundups and summary expulsions, and on the international community to step in.

"The United Nations and the Organization of American States should request that international monitors be stationed along the border and in detention centers to deter human rights abuses. If the Dominicans balk, they should be shunned at international forums. The United States, which gave about $30 million in aid to the Dominican Republic in 2012, must help prevent a humanitarian disaster."

Another NYTimes piece published this weekend makes the point that the DR's migrant issue is but a smaller version of the challenges faced by countries around the world. But the situation in the DR is complicated by the long-standing ties between the two countries. The piece looks at communities where Dominicans' and Haitians' lives are intertwined and how mass expulsion will be complicated.

Quartz piece by Judy Lubin also makes the case that Haitians in the DR are merely part of a broader issue of undocumented migrants, often exploited for cheap labor but socially and politically marginalized. "One can look no further than Arizona’s notorious “show me your papers” law that forced many documented and undocumented immigrants to flee the state out of fear of being targeted by government officials and vigilantes emboldened by institutionalized discrimination against Latino immigrants."

And third piece in the NYTimes Magazine, by Jonathan M. Katz argues that a "deep vein of racism and xenophobia" is behind the Haitian deportation plan. "... the intensity of the hatred and violence long directed against Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent in Medina’s country — and against anyone black enough to be confused for either — is staggering, like something out of Mississippi in the 1890s, or Europe before World War II."
And Roots argues that Haitian immigrants and their descendants in the Dominican Republic are the canaries in the global coal mine of anti-immigration policies and sentiment. 

But a piece in the Haitian Times makes the case that "the ill treatment that Haitians and Dominican Haitians are currently enduring in the DR has little to do with immigration. It is classified as ethnic cleansing, xenophobia, racism, and it is a crime against humanity," and calls on respected organizations including NAACP, National Urban League, Rainbow Coalition, to take a public stand against the human rights violations, racism, and xenophobia that reign in the Dominican Republic.

News Briefs

  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the replacement of his country's military leaders, a two weeks after a Human Rights Watch report implicated Colombia's top brass in thousands of extrajudicial killings of civilians between 2002 and 2008 (See June 24th's and25th'sposts.) General Jaime Alfonso Lasprilla, head of Colombia's army, will be replaced by General Alberto Mejia Ferrero; the head of Colombia's navy, Admiral Hernando Wills, will be replaced by Admiral Leonardo Santamaria; and General Carlos Bueno, will take over command of Colombia's air force from General Guillermo Leon, reports AFP. Santos formally rejected the findings of the June 24 HRW report, but Rodriguez and Lasprilla are cited by name in the document. 
  • Mexican naval troops killed six people in a gunfight about 20 miles from the U.S. border, where two drug cartels, the Jalisco New Generation and the Zetas, have reportedly been fighting. Navy personnel were attacked while patrolling the area in a Black Hawk helicopter, which was struck seven times, reports the Washington Post. Local officials and media remained silent on the issue, a common reaction in areas where drug gangs are strong. 
  • A diplomatic back-channel between Venezuela and the U.S. is working well according to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The dialogue between the two countries seeks to separate areas of disagreement, such as a clamp-down on political opposition, from those of shared interest including peace talks in Colombia and elections in Haiti, a U.S. official familiar with the situation told Reuters last week.
  • Maduro announced yesterday that he will be recalling Venezuela's ambassador to neighboring Guyana for consultations amid mounting tensions over their disputed border, reports the AP
  • Now that Venezuela finally set the date for this year's legislative elections, the question is whether there will be international observation of the December 6 polls, says David Smilde on Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro is apparently eager to participate, but it's not clear whether international organizations will be permitted to actively monitor the elections. "Venezuela has not had actual international observation since 2006. Since then only national groups have been able to actually observe, in other words, have had independent access to the entire process including the data, and have been therefore able to do a quick count. International groups have been restricted to “accompaniment” which includes being able to witness the process the day of the elections but without independence of access and movement," explains Smilde. UNASUR will be invited to "accompany" the elections, but it's not clear what that would entail as regulations do not actually stipulate a fundamental difference between accompaniment and observation other than to say the first is international and the second is national. It leaves the actual regime of accompaniment and observation to be interpreted by the CNE for each election, according to Smilde.
  • Cuban security forces beat up a an opposition activist and detained nearly a hundred dissidents on Sunday, reports the Miami Herald. Antonio G. Rodiles says he was punched on the nose by a State Security agent after he had been arrested and handcuffed. In a separate incident, two former political prisoners say they approached Cardinal Jaime Ortega at an U.S. Interests Section event, and asked him to intervene in favor of political prisoners in anticipation of Pope Francis' upcoming visit. They say Ortega refused to accept the list saying it contained information from "the worm" or "counterrevolutionary" media. The Havana archdiocese denied Monday that Ortega used harsh language to criticize Miami media.
  • Hardships in Puerto Rico are driving what might be the largest out-migration since the 1950s, reports the Miami Herald. The island's population is down to 3.6 million, down from a 2009 peak of 4 million. 
  • Family is the cornerstone of society, said Pope Francis yesterday in his Guayaquil mass yesterday, but its joys still elude many, and he voiced hope that a meeting of bishops at the Vatican this fall will help those who feel left out of family life, reports the Wall Street Journal.“The family constitutes the best ‘social capital.’ It cannot be replaced by other institutions. It needs to be helped and strengthened,” he said. The AP notes that liberal and conservative bishops are particularly divided over family issues such as ministering to gays and to Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the church. Francis never mentioned gays or the divorced directly on Monday, but many analysts believe he wants to push the church to take a more accommodating stance, reports the New York Times. An estimated 550,000 people attended the mass in a park on the city's outskirts. A separate AP article notes the stamina of the 78-year-old pope, who seemed well yesterday despite the 2,800-meter altitude of Quito and a day spent in the scorching sun of coastal Guayaquil.
  • As the pontiff travels the region looking to shore up the Roman Catholic faithful, the Los Angeles Times has a piece on São Paulo street evangelicals. About fifty years ago, nearly 90 percent of Brazilians were Roman Catholic, but now that number has dropped to 57 percent, while 28 percent are affiliated with some kind of evangelical faith. The piece notes that some evangelical figures have risen to high political echelons, such as Eduardo Cunha, an evangelical who serves as president of the lower house of Congress -- and who was behind last week's lowering of the age of criminal responsibility (see Friday's briefs). The piece recounts that after evangelical congressmen staged a protest against Sao Paulo's recent Gay Pride Parade, Folha de S.Paulo printed a scathing indictment: "A growing spirit of fundamentalism is manifesting itself ... and Congress seems committed to reflect this trend, intensify it, and use it to demagogic ends."

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