Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haitians and Dominicans Unite Against Immigration Court Ruling

Besides increased tensions between Haiti and DR, the September 23 Dominican Republic Constitutional Court ruling has also united Haitian-Americans and Dominican-Americans.


Voices of NY, Haitian Times
December 17, 2013

nyc protests dominican dec 2013

NEW YORK, NY — Ayibobo! chanted the colorfully dressed singer of Kalunga (Neg Mawon), invoking the traditional call to the gods of indigenous Taíno Indians of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

Immigrants from both sides of that divided island — Haiti and the Dominican Republic — were gathered in an auditorium November 15 to protest a court ruling in the Dominican Republic that denies citizenship to anyone born after 1929 who does not have at least one parent of “Dominican blood,” effectively stripping more than 200,000 people of Haitian descent of their citizenship, as well as others who have lived as Dominican citizens for decades. The change has stirred political anger, prompting members of the band Kalunga to urge immigrants from both countries to unite in opposing it.

“If we can’t bring the island together politically, let’s do it culturally,” said members of the band, made up of Haitian and Dominican musicians. “This decision has been used to incite a backward, prehistoric nationalism,” said Estela Vazquez, a Dominican immigrant and executive vice president of the local 1199 Service Employees International Union, which sponsored the rally that drew over 100 people from both communities.

Artists painted murals depicting Haitian faces and clenched fists on large Dominican flags. In English, Spanish and Creole, firebrand keynote speakers expressed anger at what they saw as institutional racism by Santo Domingo’s ruling elite. At one point, everyone was asked to hold hands in a show of solidarity. Leaders of each community embraced each other tightly.

Since the September 23 ruling by the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court, there have been weekly protests across New York, some outside the Dominican consulate in Times Square, and some in community centers in Brooklyn and Washington Heights.

The ruling has also sparked international criticism, heightening tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, in a relationship already fraught with historical acrimony. CARICOM, a Caribbean regional organization, and Amnesty International have demanded a retraction of the court order.

And in New York, home to more than 120,000 Haitians and 600,000 Dominicans, according to the 2012 American Community Survey, the ruling has reverberated heavily, strengthening ties and fostering unity between two peoples often separated by geography, language and history.

“The decision has brought us closer, because we’re both immigrants,” said Vazquez. “We as diasporas [sic] have the power to condemn this decision.”

For Haitian-Americans, the court ruling appears racially motivated.

“There is no issue bigger in the Haitian community than this,” said Ricot Dupuy, 50, station manager at the widely followed Radio Soleil D’Haiti in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. “There are racist and extremist elements in the D.R.” Radio Soleil’s daily programming, Dupuy added, has been dominated by the Dominican court ruling.

For the full story, visit Voices of NY.

(Photo via Voices of NY)


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