The dirty business of cleansingBy Sheila Rampersad
Story Updated: Nov 7, 2013
Sitting with Dr Jose Serulle Ramia, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to T&T yesterday, I heard words that had already been uttered by his partner ambassador to Washington DC, Anibal de Castro, in the New York Times of October 31—that the DR Government must follow the law i.e. Ruling 0168-13 of the country’s Constitutional Tribunal; that DR is not racist towards Haitians; that it has a legitimate interest in regulating immigration; and that the ruling was a mandate to provide people affected with temporary residence permits until a regularisation plan is in place.
The ambassador in DC added that those affected are not stateless because the Haitian constitution bestows citizenship on any person born of Haitian parents anywhere in the world. In others words, de Castro is saying these people are constitutionally Haitian citizens although they have lived and worked in the DR for generations, speak Spanish and little or no French or Haitian kweyol, and many have never set foot on Haitian soil.
De Castro’s letter to the NY Times editor was published alongside one signed by award-winning authors Edwidge Danticat, Junot Diaz, Mark Kurlansky Julia Alvarez. The writers argued that one of the important lessons of the Holocaust was that the first step to genocide is to strip a people of their right to citizenship.
They describe the ruling, which is retroactive to 1929, as institutionalised racism and a huge step backward: “The ruling will make it challenging for them to study; to work in the formal sector of the economy; to get insurance; to pay into their pension fund; to get married legally; to open bank accounts; and even to leave the country that now rejects them if they cannot obtain or renew their passport. It is an instantly created underclass set up for abuse.”
The foursome raise the spectre of the October 1937 Dominican Massacre when dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the deaths of an estimated 20,000 Haitians over five days.
Seventy-six years later, that cleansing burns in the memory of Haitians. The BBC picks up the story, recounting that it earned the name the Parsley Massacre because Dominican soldiers carried a sprig of parsley and would ask people suspected of being Haitian to pronounce the Spanish word for it: “perejil.”
Those whose first language was Haitian kwejol found it difficult to say it correctly, a mistake that cost them their lives.
Bodies were dumped in the Massacre River, so named after an earlier colonial struggle between the Spanish and French.
From late September to mid-October that year, men, women and children were rounded up, then beaten or hacked to death for just being Haitian.
Even dark-skinned Dominicans were caught up in the purge that became known as “el corte”, the cutting.
Even the US at the time, which regarded Trujillo as a staunch ally, condemned the killings in diplomatic cables describing it as “a systematic campaign of extermination”.
There is evidence that in many villages Dominicans risked their own lives to help their Haitian neighbours escape. In other cases, local people pointed out Haitian immigrants to the authorities.
The ghost of DR past resurrected in that country this week when a crowd, comprised of “patriotic” NGOs in defence of sovereignty, gathered to support the court ruling. Among the chants and banners were “Death to the Traitors”, “Build a Wall”, and “Let us Cleanse the Country”.
It would have been a terror-inducing to Haitian-descended Dominicans to see the crowd and hear the violent, racist rhetoric. The hypocritical leaders of these “patriotic” NGOs did not speak of landowners and business people who encouraged Haitians to DR as cheap labour to be exploited for maximum profit. But Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Ilosa spoke it in Courrier International.
Neither did the NGOs nor the two ambassadors speak about the fact that the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal violates a 2005 ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which told the Dominican Republic that it could not use the nationality of parents as pretext for taking citizenship from their children. The Inter-American court’s rulings are binding.
Haitian-descended Dominicans are not the only ones affected. Making its ruling retroactive to 1929, the Constitutional Tribunal instructions also include the descendants of Jews, Chinese and Europeans. By far, however, the largest and perhaps most vulnerable grouping is Haitian descended.
An immigrant census released earlier this year estimated there were 245,000 Dominican-born, first-generation children of immigrants living in the country. The number affected by the ruling is likely to be exponentially higher because it applies to other generations as well.
If, as Mario Vargas Ilosa said, the true face of the DR was visible in the country’s immediate expression of humanity following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, it’s time for more of that to be demonstrated by Dominicans who, incidentally, are themselves beneficiaries of first-world countries’ generosity when they migrate illegally.http://www.trinidadexpress.com/commentaries/The-dirty-business-of-cleansing-231074551.html?m=y&smobile=y
###Ambassador: Not all are granted Dominican citizenshipStory Created: Nov 8, 2013 at 9:25 PM ECT
Unlike the United States, the Dominican Republic does not grant citizenship to all those born within its jurisdiction.
This was stated by Anibal De Castro, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic in Washington, in a statement posted on the Express website yesterday in response to a column entitled “The Dirty Business of Cleansing” by Dr Sheila Rampersad.
In fact, De Castro said the United States is one of the few nations that maintains this practice.
Following is the text of De Castro’s statement:
“Unlike the United States, the Dominican Republic does not grant citizenship to all those born within its jurisdiction. In fact, the United States is one of the few nations that maintains this practice. In most countries, it is the norm that citizenship be obtained by origin or conferred under certain conditions. Since 1929, the Constitution of the Dominican Republic has established that the children of people in transit, a temporary legal status, are not eligible for Dominican citizenship.
The article you published does not mention that this principle was confirmed in 2005 by our Supreme Court and subsequently ratified in a constitutional reform in 2010. The Constitutional Court confirms previous interpretations of other courts and pursues its implementation with the relevant authorities, in order to establish a coherent immigration policy.
Like other nations with a significant immigrant population, the Dominican Republic has a legitimate interest in regulating immigration and having clear rules for acquisition of citizenship. This does not only ensure the internal stability of the country, but it also ensures adequate protection of its immigrants. The Dominican Republic should not be pressured by outside actors and other countries to implement measures contrary to its own Constitution and that would be unacceptable to most other nations facing similar immigration pressures.
The Dominican government recognises its obligations to the international community and the plight of the children of illegal Haitian migrants born in the country who lack identity documents.
This does not, however, render them stateless. As your article says, Haiti’s Constitution bestows citizenship on any person born of Haitian parents anywhere in the world. This means that a person born to foreign parents in Haiti, is not eligible for Haitian citizenship.
Also, the Haitian State has the obligation to document their nationals, regardless of their place of birth. Our country cannot bear the responsibility for the consequences due to the difficulty Haiti has in documenting its citizens. Even so, the Dominican Republic has carried out efforts to support Haitian authorities in the regulation of civil registration, including free access to Dominican institutions to facilitate their labour.
Your article argues that there has been discrimination against Haitian immigrants as far as granting nationality is concerned. If in fact there are inconsistent actions, they are the result of the struggle that the Dominican Republic has faced for decades to successfully implement its immigration policy, the same that has affected your very own immigration policies.
It should be noted, moreover, that those born to at least one parent who is a legal Dominican resident is in fact a Dominican citizen.
Therefore, the number of people who do not qualify for Dominican nationality has been grossly exaggerated. A key component of the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling was a mandate to provide people affected with temporary residence permits until a regularisation plan is in place.
These allow them to remain and work in the country and will provide ways to obtain nationality or residence, according to individual factors.
Each case will be carefully examined and subject to judicial due process. Speculation about mass deportations that I have heard is therefore baseless.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti may have a fractious history. Recent events, including the solidarity shown by Dominican society after the earthquake of 2010, have shown, however, that for the most part the countries are looking to the future, engaged in the hard task of finding joint solutions to common challenges.”http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Ambassador-Not-all-are-granted-Dominican-citizenship-231229701.html