Activists from various human rights organizations gathered in Little Haiti Thursday to “Say NO” to the mass deportations of Haitians from neighboring Dominican Republic.
The Miami gathering comes a day after a deadline took effect in the Dominican Republic requiring Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent to “regularize” their status to avoid deportation. Contradictory statements from Dominican leaders has created confusion as to when and if the deportations will take place. According to the Dominican Republic’s Interior Ministry, an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants have started the registration process, a number which only represents half of the 500,000 foreign-born migrants eligible for the reguilarization program.
A group of about 50 demonstrators participated in the rally outside the Haitian Women of Miami, Inc. building at 181 NE 82nd St. Participants included members of Haitian Women of Miami, Inc., Haitian League for Human Rights, Veye Yo, Haitian American Grassroots Coalition and the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, Inc., led the demonstration. She said the goal was to call upon the United States government to intervene to demand the Dominican Republic end mass deportations and provide all Haitians their rights of due process.
“We are asking President Obama and the United States government to intervene and take sanctions against the Dominican Republic,” Bastien said. “We are asking the Dominican Republic to stop all deportations to Haiti right now. We are asking the U.N. to join and take sanctions. And we ask, if there are any possible deportations for people who are not supposed to be in the Dominican Republic, that they are done humanely.”
Bastien said the problem with mass deportation to Haiti is that most Haitians are homeless once they return to the country.
“You have a country that is still in the state of rebuilding and now if you are going to send people there, they don’t have any place to go,” Bastien said. “If they are going to send them back, they need to follow due process of law and make sure basic human rights are respected.”
Other local leaders spoke out against the treatment of Haitians in the Dominican Republic.
“What is happening is an issue of white supremacy, an issue of xenophobia, an issue of ethnic cleansing,” said Ruth Jeannoel, Organizer for the Power U Center for Social Change. “Dominicans and Haitians share an island, yet darker skinned people in Haiti are really being pushed out. Haitian people are not disposable. We are human just like everybody else.”
Francesca Menes, policy and advocacy coordinator at the Florida Immigrant Coalition, agreed.
“They are deporting Dominicans. Although they are born of Haitian ancestry, they have been in the Dominican Republic for generations,” she said. “These are Dominicans, and so their rights are being taken away and no one is saying anything.”
The rally concluded with group chants of “Boycott” and “Haitian lives matter.” The leaders of participating groups met after the rally to discuss their strategy moving forward in persuading the U.S. government to take a stand against the developing situation in the Dominican Republic.
The rally continues on Twitter today until 10 pm using the hashtag, #HaitianLivesMatter.