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North Miami leaders condemn Dominican government

North Miami councilman Alix Desulme speaks outside the MOCA plaza in North Miami, where council members discussed a resolution condemning the Dominican Republic for the proposed deportation of Haitian immigrants and citizens with Haitian ancestry on Thursday, July 16, 2015
North Miami councilman Alix Desulme speaks outside the MOCA plaza in North Miami, where council members discussed a resolution condemning the Dominican Republic for the proposed deportation of Haitian immigrants and citizens with Haitian ancestry on Thursday, July 16, 2015 MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The North Miami City Council joined other municipal bodies and thousands of protesters in condemning the government of the Dominican Republic for the potential deportation of thousands of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent and calling on the U.S. government to take action.

The council passed a resolution at its Tuesday council meeting, sponsored by Councilman Alix Desulme, urging the president and the State Department to intervene in the situation. The council discussed the resolution at a press conference Thursday morning and is asking other municipalities and community groups to support members with similar actions.

“This is a crime. This is a shameful crime, and it must stop,” Mayor Smith Joseph said. “These outrageous actions are of grave and immediate concern.”

The Miami-Dade County Commission approved a similar resolution last month, and Florida International University professors have also written a letter addressed to President Obama asking the government to step in. Joseph said he has also received support from Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado. Earlier this month, Regalado sent a letter to Dominican President Danilo Medina asking for his “goodwill to these Haitian people that arrive in your country in search of the peace, hope and future they have been denied in their own country.”

“Today, we urge the U.S. government to take all necessary actions to prevent a genocide to not only the Haitians living in the Dominican Republic but also the Dominicans of color,” Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime said.

The State Department has said that it is monitoring the situation, but critics have said that the Obama administration hasn’t been vocal enough in condemning what’s happening. Estimates range from 19,000 to nearly 40,000 who have left the Dominican Republic for Haiti in the past month. Haitian leaders have also asked for international help with the crisis.

The Dominican Republic’s constitutional court passed a law in 2013 denying citizenship to residents born after 1929 who didn’t have at least one parent with Dominican ancestry. The country created a citizenship program, after facing international criticism, with a deadline that expired Feb. 1 and with fewer than 10,000 people registered. Dominican authorities also created a separate program to legalize undocumented migrants living in the territory. That deadline expired on June 17 with thousands unable to register and facing deportation.

Members of the city council and Haitian activists say it has been difficult for Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent to register for either program because of costs, paperwork and other requirements. Meanwhile, the Dominican government has argued that it has a right to regulate immigration in its territory and determine who can or cannot stay.

“This is not a migrant issue of immigration and Haitians coming over; this is an issue of human rights,” Desulme said.

North Miami has a continually growing Haitian population, and three of the five council members (Joseph, Desulme and Bien-Aime) are Haitian-American. Desulme said council members have offered support and comfort to residents whose families have been impacted.

“It’s a very, very delicate situation, and we share the pain with them,” Desulme said.

The council members said they plan to continue to push the issue and hope for a resolution and for additional support.

“This is not just an international issue, this affects the people who live right here in the city of North Miami,” Councilman Scott Galvin said. “We look forward to seeing other city councils around Miami-Dade County take this same action.”

Miami Herald staff writer Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.

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