Pain and anger hotter than the Thursday afternoon sun flowed from Jeanette Pubien as she railed, almost to tears, over the prospect of Haitians and their descendents being deported back to Haiti by the Dominican Republic.
“Haiti took care of them for years. Now they treat us like dogs! They treat my brothers and my sisters like they are nothing!” Pubien yelled. “Those people are criminals. Why don’t they deport the Haitians in the Dominican Republic who have money? They deport the poor ones who are looking for peace for their kids.”
Pubien’s fury echoed the hundreds who marched Thursday from the Dominican Republic consulate on Brickell Avenue to the Haitian consulate a half mile away on Southwest 13th Street. Young, old, blue-collar, white-collar and politicians (Miami-Dade commissioner Jean Monestime, Haitian presidential candidate Michelet Nestor) protested an action they find unfair on its face.
“I’m tired of seeing what’s happening in the Dominican Republic,” said Haitian-Dominican Francesca Menes, an FIU graduate. “I know my father is turning in his grave to see what the hell his people are doing to our people.”
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One protester repeatedly shouted at the Dominican consulate, “How would you feel if the United States did this to you?”
The outcry was prompted by the Dominican Republic imposing a June 17 deadline for hundreds of thousands of Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the D.R. to register with immigration authorities, a move many have interpreted as the first step toward deportation. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea.
The registration drive followed a 2013 Dominican Constitutional Court ruling stating that no longer would citizenship be granted just by being born in the Dominican Republic, retroactive to 1929. Generations of Dominicans with Haitian roots, many brought into the country to do blue-collar labor, suddenly found themselves declared non-Dominicans.
One path to citizenship required proving identity and arrival into the Dominican Republic before October 2011. But, critics say, many of those affected by the registration ruling come from poor families who are more likely to have home births not officially documented or descended from Haitians imported illegally. The Guardian, the British newspaper, reported only 10,000 of 250,000 applicants met the requirements. Deportations haven’t begun yet; the Dominican government has given different time frames with different official statements.
Protesters also said the policy gives racism against dark-skinned residents of the Dominican Republic governmental imprimatur.
“This is a violation of human rights,” said Erick Paulino, a doctorate student at Indiana University. “As a Dominican of conscience, I have to stand here and denounce my government because it’s exercising ultra-nationalist xenophobia and racism.”
Paulino and several protesters engaged in a vociferous debate across Brickell Avenue with Edward Sarrain, a college student from the Dominican Republic, who held a sign declaring, “Haitians, stop the lies.”
“They’re making this a race issue, which it is not,” Sarrain said. “It’s a process that has been established to help the Haitians establish their legality.”
Protesters voiced support for a boycott of Dominican-owned businesses in South Florida to force Dominican-Americans to put pressure on the Dominican government.
“We demand the Dominican Republic stop all mass deportations to Haiti,” said Marleine Bastien, founder and director of Haitian Women of Miami (FANM). “Second, we demand that the Dominican Republic rescind the law 168-13 and create a path for Dominicans born of Haitian descent to gain citizenship.
“Third, we’re asking the United States of America, the United Nations and all international human rights bodies, which have been silent in the face of such atrocity and human rights violations, intervene and put sanctions on the Dominican Republic.”