Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On Discrimination Against Dominicans of Haitian Descent

I have traveled to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and am familiar with the history of racial tensions between the population of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent, and other citizens of the Dominican Republic.

These problems are by no means unique to these two neighboring countries, nor are there easy solutions. In addition to race there is competition for land, social services, and jobs. But while this situation should not be oversimplified, the way the Dominican government is dealing with it is unfortunate. Read the rest of this entry »

Ruling by Dominican Republic Constitutional Court threatens access to international justice for victims of human rights violations 

Washington, D.C. (November 5, 2014) — Kerry Kennedy and Santiago A. Canton, on behalf of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (Robert F. Kennedy Center), condemn a ruling by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic invalidating the State’s acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In particular, they express profound concern for the impact this ruling will have denying access to international justice for all Dominicans, including most recently hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent who have looked to the international community and the Inter-American human rights system for protection.

“The Dominican Republic had an opportunity to demonstrate bold human rights leadership by protecting the rights of its most vulnerable citizens,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center. “Instead, the Dominican Constitutional Court has not only failed to protect them, but also pretends to deny all Dominicans the possibility of appealing to international law to protect their fundamental rights. The Constitutional Court is playing politics at the expense of the very people it is obliged to protect.”

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Haití-República Dominicana: 700 trabajadores migrantes haitianos autorizados para regresar a RD

Ouanamithe-Dajabón) 8 de febrero de 2013 — Hoy la ciudad de Ouanaminthe en Haití amanece con una buena noticia: luego de un mes de espera, 700 trabajadores migrantes haitianos que habían quedado varados al norte de la frontera haitiano-dominicana  recibieron ayer sus pasaportes debidamente sellados con visas dominicanas.

Hoy pueden cruzar de manera legal el puente fronterizo, ubicado sobre el río Masacre que separa ambos países, para volver a sus puestos de trabajo en República Dominicana.

Esta decisión que beneficia a esos trabajadores migrantes haitianos es resultado de un acuerdo al que llegaron las autoridades de ambos países, bajo la mediación del director de Solidaridad Fronteriza del Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes (SJM), el Padre jesuita Regino Martínez Breton.

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Los Cacaos: Road to Clean Water

A new project spearheaded by Catholic nuns and sponsored by Jesuit Refugee Service aims to bring healthy water and reliable irrigation to this mountain village in central Haiti.

Los Cacaos is located near Banica in the Dominican Republic. The area is parched and dusty during the dry season, and muddy and dangerous when tropical storms lash the countryside. The area was nearly impassable before the nuns arrived and bulldozed more than 23 miles of roads through the rocky mountains.

“The nuns came to help us, especially with the road. This is one of the greatest things we’ve ever had,” said Ereze Prophétte, 62, of Los Cacaos.

“Before the road we used to have a lot of problems here. When a woman was pregnant and ready to give birth, but had problems, we had to take that woman on a chair or a kind of hammock and get her to Banica,” said Desinard Oracius, 52. “By the help of God, and of Maria, we have this road today. Trucks can get to us, and take us when we have to get to a hospital.”

Learn more by reading the full story at jrsusa.org/haiti

School project provides hope for Haitian migrant children in the Dominican Republic

Outside this small town on the southern coast, Jesuit Refugee Service is supporting an education project of the Altagracia Parish in the Diocese of Barahona. Two migrant worker villages in the area are home to Haitians and Dominican-born persons of Haitian descent. Following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti the area witnessed an influx of Haitians displaced by the natural disaster.

ALCOA once operated a large bauxite mine in the area, and the road they built for the mine still provides the main access to the inland area, but the mine closed in 1982. Although odd formations still dot the landscape, nature has mostly covered the mine’s scars and the overall view of green mountains descending gently to the blue Caribbean Sea is a tranquil one. But life here can be far from tranquil.

“Haitian migrant life here is very difficult,” said Fr. Antonio Fernandez Rodriguez of Altagracia Parish. “Fifty percent of what they grow they have to give the owner of the land. Sometimes they take loans at high interest (a 15 percent to 20 percent monthly rate) to buy fertilizer for the land. If there is no good harvest, they are saddled with many debts which cause them additional problems.”

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola, and although Haiti is about half the size of its neighbor, it has a slightly larger population. The increased population density and the centralization of the population in Port-au-Prince have resulted in additional challenges for food security and sustainable agriculture initiatives.

Reforms in Dominican Republic increase number of stateless people

On December 10, International Human Rights Day, the government of the Dominican Republic is set to promulgate a constitutional reform measure that could leave large numbers of Dominicans of Haitian descent stateless. The changes to nationality provisions, first approved in October 2009 by the country’s legislators, will redefine Dominican citizenship and deny children born on Dominican soil to immigrant parents “residing illegally” in the country their legal claim to Dominican nationality.

Over the past year the Dominican Republic has been de-nationalizing many of its citizens of Haitian descent, despite their constitutional right to nationality. Under the amended Constitution, there is fear that thousands more Dominicans of Haitian descent will be retroactively stripped of their Dominican nationality, placing them at risk of losing their fundamental rights to attend school, access adequate housing, health care, property, and freedom of movement. Further, the constitutional change will leave thousands of Dominicans suspected of Haitian ancestry vulnerable to the intermittent mass expulsion campaigns carried out by Dominican authorities, in which military and immigration police have been known to deport thousands of people who “look Haitian” or who have French last names, over the border into Haiti.

Human rights organizations throughout the Dominican Republic and around the world are alarmed by this decision because of the impact it will have on this already marginalized community. The new constitutional provisions on nationality are incompatible with international law, as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has held that the migratory status of a person is not transmitted to their children. Any attempt by the Dominican Republic to apply this constitutional reform retroactively would constitute a clear violation of international law.

“The Dominican Republic has witnessed a steady drumbeat of discrimination against Dominicans of Haitian descent. Prior to this constitutional change, thousands have had their identity documents denied, or confiscated for no reason other than their ancestry,” said Monika Kalra Varma of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights.
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Haitians in Dominican Republic face violence, abuse

Catholic San Francisco Assistant Editor Rick DelVecchio and two other Catholic journalists recently spent eight days in Haiti and the Dominican Republic to report on migrants and refugees, whose vulnerability as they cross national borders in search of a better life is a growing humanitarian concern.

“Whatever happens in the Dominican Republic, they blame a Haitian,” said Saint Marc, 66. “Somebody died, they blame a Haitian. They rob a house, they blame Haitians. You might be lying on your bed and next thing they come and get you because they accuse you of a crime.”

Nearly all Haitians in the Dominican Republic are undocumented, and their status primes them for victimization. They get little help from their own government.

“Haitian authorities do little or nothing to help their citizens regularize their status in their host countries,” Jesuit Refugee Service said in a statement after a conference in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince Oct. 25. This further marginalizes Haitians and puts them at risk of human rights violations and deportation, the group said.

Read the full story here.