By Ardain Isma
Haitians are proud individuals, resilient, industrious and, most importantly, respectful. Most observers would agree; but Haitians are one of the most unfairly treated in many quarters of the world. For example, in the Bahamas, Haitians are treated as the most wretched of society. Haitians are rounded up each month like cattle in a ranch and herded to one direction: the Fox Hill prison to await a chartered plane bound for Port-au-Prince. This is a shocking reality for any human being to swallow. No matter how despicable this could be, however, in the Dominican Republic, the treatment given to Haitians is beyond belief. It is one that is usually reserved for hardcore criminals or wild and untamed beasts.
The horror stories that are being reported in the media are just enough to make one’s stomach churned. The stories of people being lynched, dragged out of their homes and stripped off their clothes as mobs of xenophobic elements applauding are compelling enough to believe ethnic cleansing is being taking place in the Dominican Republic. One has good reason to dwell in the suspicion that what the world is now witnessing in the DR is the coming of Genocide 2.0. This is a chilling reminder of what happened to more than 30, 000 Haitians in 1937 in the Dominican Republic, where they were assassinated under the direct order and guidance of the Dominican government.
In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court ruled to retroactively deny citizenship to children of Haitian immigrants born after 1929, whose birth certificates were never registered in the country. That decision sent shockwaves around the world, and many international institutions, including UNHCR (United Nations High Commissionaire for Refugees) were outraged. Facing such barrage of repudiation, the hawks in the DR tactically retreated from their original plan. Then, the PNRE aka National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners adopted a new law which allowed people born to undocumented parents to request residency permits as foreigners. What an awkward dubiousness! How can someone be a foreigner in the land of his birth and the only land he’s ever known?
The Dominican government controlled by Los Blancos de la Mierda gave immigrants until last month to register with the authorities under the PNRE ordinance or face deportation proceedings. It was a catch-22. Haitians in the DR were faced with two options: Turning themselves in with all the dire consequences as a result of that choice, or self-deport while they can and while there is still time. Many of them have chosen the latter option.
For over one hundred years, the Dominican elite and their supporters have never rested with the fact that independence was gained from Haiti. To them it is a shameful chapter of their history—a narrative they could only wish to rewrite. But history can never be rewritten. Historical facts are immutable, and that seems to have irritated immensely the upper class on the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola. They broke free from Haitian rule in 1843, not because they fought a heroic struggle. They owe independence largely to the Haitians peasants who revolted against the Eurocentric rule of President Jean-Pierre Boyer, demanding land reform and a fair distribution of wealth.
In essence, the Dominican Republic never had a history of resistance. Henceforth, in the calculus of the Hispano-centric-fair-skin mulattoes who constitute the country’s bourgeoisie, nationalism or patriotism can only be sustained through a profound anti-Haitianism.
It is true early Haitian leaders had committed some dreaded blunders in occupying the DR the way they did. Their mistreatment of Dominicans, seeing as subjects but not equal citizens under their Pan-African grand plan, was and perhaps forever will be the catalyst behind this deep-seated hatred for Haiti and Haitians everywhere.
It is also fair to say the growing hatred for Haitians or this anti-Haitian campaign has not been endorsed by the entire Dominican population. For years, Haitians and Dominicans have been intermarrying, supporting each other in time of crisis. Of course, one doesn’t need a million people to orchestrate genocide. All one needs is the introduction of mob rule—as we have watched those gruesome videos in which mobs of Dominicans gather together to lynch Haitians.
Despite all this, there are Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans who are willing to play by the rule. Even though applicants are supposed to be allowed to provide any of five alternative identification documents, like birth certificates and passports, Dominican officials only accept a passport according to Mark Phillips at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Mr. Phillips was an eyewitness to the horror story after traveling to the DR as part of a delegation of human rights lawyers and law students. Another delegate, Rodline Louijeune, who also traveled with Phillips, said many Haitians “had laminated cards showing they applied for regularization, but most did not believe that the cards would protect them from forced migration.”
Can Haiti reverse the trend?
Up to now, the Dominican Republic has already deported more than 31, 000 Haitians, and one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand this number will likely to grow. It is estimated about 500,000 Haitians live in the DR. Out of this number, about half of it is made up of people born in the country. These are people who have never been to Haiti and who, for all practical purposes, are Dominicans. Dominican authorities make no difference. The mere fact they wanted to push the time to 1929, 96 years, to be considered a Dominican, is a testament that there is a powerful sector of the Dominican upper class that wants to rid the country of Haitians at all costs. If they can’t do it covertly, through scare tactics, manipulation and outright prejudices, they will do it overtly through mass deportations or mass killings.
Adding to the dilemma is the blatant impotence of the Haitian authorities. They’re too busy making deals with their Dominican counterparts, and despite international outcry, they remain unconcerned, unnerved and totally oblivious to the plight of half million of their fellow countrymen trapped east of the border. They offer token assistance to the Haitians who have already been deported. What are they good for other than to make laws that would allow them to either stay out of jail or to fuel their coffers even more in foreign banks? If you don’t believe this, watch the Haitian president, Michel Martelly-Sweet Micky’s video, going vulgar on the Champ-De-Mars—the main square in the Haitian capital. Sweet Micky dressed like an uncontrolled freak aficionado during a Christ Brown concert. Christ Brown? That’s another story. Sweet Micky’s words about the Haitian migrants in the DR are so shocking that it makes one wonders…
Ultimately, Haiti alone holds the key to all Haitians overseas dilemma. Haitians are hard-workers and truly patriotic. They are forced to go elsewhere because they feel the benefit of gambling with their lives far outweighs the risk of staying home to be consumed by hunger and starvation. Haitians everywhere will be respected and honored when and only when Haiti can master democratic governance and the rule of law—prerequisite to build a strong nation-state foregrounded on the premise of justice for all. Until then, the migration problem will only exacerbate.
Note: Dr. Ardain Isma is novelist and essayist. He is the chief-editor for CSMS Magazine. His latest novel is titled Midnight at Noon, a political novel describing contemporary Haitian politics and class antagonisms. He may be reached at email@example.com