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Dominican Policies Cause Tension Among MA Politicians

July 18, 2015 - 11:21

The ongoing citizenship crisis in the Dominican Republic has sparked various responses among Massachusetts politicians. They must find the balance between acting on their opinions, their constituents’ demands and the good of the greater international community. For some, this issue is much more personal; State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, for example, was born to Haitian parents who immigrated to the U.S. For Dorcena Forry and others, the response is clear: boycott the DR to pressure the Dominican government into ending the humanitarian crisis. However, other politicians argue that a boycott will hurt the Dominican economy and the Dominican population living in the U.S. This source of opposition may be decisive in future elections.

Click HERE for the original article.

Caribbean issue divides Mass. lawmakers

Maria Sacchetti, The Boston Globe

July 18, 2015

State Representative Frank Moran and Senator Linda Dorcena Forry are almost always on the same team. They are Democrats and the children of immigrants whose families hail from the same small island in the Caribbean.

So when Dorcena Forry called for a boycott on travel to the Dominican Republic amid fears that the nation planned to deport thousands of residents of Haitian descent, she naturally turned to Moran for support. But he refused. Moran was born in the Dominican Republic, the state senator’s parents are from Haiti.

“I totally disagree with her,” he said. “We need to find a solution, not to add more fuel to the fire.”

Dominicans and Haitians are among the largest immigrant communities in Massachusetts, and over the years they have built alliances on issues such as education, immigration, and jobs. But now the conflict roiling the Dominican Republic is testing those loyalties and pushing Massachusetts politicians to take sides in the international fray.

In Boston, tensions escalated in recent weeks amid widespread confusion over the effect of the Dominican Republic’s plans for enforcing its immigration laws. Dorcena Forry said she received death threats after she called for the travel boycott last month. On July 9, dozens of flag-waving protesters on both sides clashed in front of the Dominican consulate in Boston. The next day, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh called a special meeting to say he did not support the boycott, after an aide had publicly said he did.

In a highly unusual move, this week a Dominican diplomat, Dominico Cabral, attacked Massachusetts politicians who support the boycott. In comments to Spanish-language media here and overseas, he called the travel boycott a “dirty campaign” that would hurt Dorcena Forry and others with Dominican-American voters. Massachusetts is home to more than 120,000 people of Dominican descent, including immigrants and their US-born children, and 77,000 Haitian-Americans, according to the census.

“We’re going to make the difference in the next elections,” Cabral, the former consul general in Boston, said in an interview. “And if she persists in this, she’s going to lose. And the mayor, too.”

Dominican officials insist that nobody has been deported from the country since late 2013, after their nation’s highest court, reinterpreting a constitutional provision, ruled that Dominican-born children of undocumented immigrants were not entitled to citizenship. The ruling effectively revoked the citizenship of as many as 200,000 native-born Dominicans, mainly children of Haitian immigrants to the Dominican Republic. The order was retroactive to 1929. Amid international outcry, the country passed a law allowing those affected to apply for citizenship.

Separately, also in response to the court ruling, the president cleared the way for people in the country illegally to apply for legal residency by June 17 or face possible deportation. The deadline reignited the international debate and generated fears of deportations, even for those born in the country.

“No one born in the Dominican Republic will be deported,” Jose Tomas Perez , the Dominican ambassador to the United States, wrote in a July 11 column in El Nuevo Herald.

But lawyers and others say the situation is more complex. They say the citizenship application process is so bureaucratic — demanding notarized documents that many native-born Dominicans do not have — that most have been shut out. About 55,000 native-born Dominicans with foreign parents have been approved, while another 9,000 applications are pending.

“We need to find a solution, not to add more fuel to the fire,” said Rep. Frank Moran, who opposes the boycott.

US Senator Edward J. Markey called the application process “overly burdensome” in a letter to the State Department earlier this month, and Secretary of State John Kerry expressed similar concerns in a statement. US Senator Elizabeth Warren did not respond to requests for comment.

Wade McMullen, managing attorney at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, a Washington nonprofit representing stateless Dominicans, said many people of Haitian descent fear they will face deportation once the controversy dies down.

“Many of them are multigeneration Dominican. They only speak Spanish,” he said. Haitians speak French or Creole. “They have never been outside of the country. They’ve never traveled to Haiti.”

And although Dominican officials say nobody has been deported, media reports have documented some deportations, and tens of thousands of people have left on their own accord, some fearing violence if they don’t. In his letter to the State Department, Markey said the Dominican government was “brazenly” encouraging the departures by providing free rides to the border.

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Dorcena Forry, the Boston-born daughter of Haitian immigrants and the only Haitian-American lawmaker on Beacon Hill. “We get that the Dominican Republic is a sovereign nation,” she said, but she believes authorities there should not strip citizenship from native-born residents. “That is the big piece that everyone has concerns with.”

Cabral, the former Boston consul, said the Dominican Republic is simply trying to bring order to its immigration laws after years of lax enforcement. After the 2010 earthquake, he noted, the Dominican Republic allowed many Haitians to enter.

He said officials are concerned that escaped prisoners also slipped across the border, adding to the need to register immigrants.

In Massachusetts, the debate is testing immigrants and their children — particularly lawmakers such as Dorcena Forry and Moran, who straddle two worlds. They are bilingual and speak English with Boston accents, and are far more familiar with Massachusetts.

Former Boston lawmaker Marie St. Fleur, a Haitian-American who favors the boycott, said many immigrants and their children do not know the long history between the countries. Dominicans have recruited Haitians to work there for over a century, but many were often mistreated. One horrific example was the 1937 massacre of thousands of Haitians by Dominican soldiers.

In 2010, the Dominican Republic amended its constitution to bar Dominican-born children of illegal immigrants from obtaining citizenship. In the United States, people born in the country are citizens at birth.

“There needs to be a better job of pulling people together, and having conversations and really sharing the history so that it’s about fixing the problem,” St. Fleur said.

Moran, the state representative from Lawrence, said he has struggled over the conflict in recent weeks. Though his city is largely Dominican-American, he left the Dominican Republic when he was 8. He read news reports about what’s happening in his home country and called his father for guidance. “I am trying to defend something I don’t know,” he said.

After some research, Moran decided to remain neutral. He said the Dominican Republic has the right to set its immigration policies, but he did not approve of deporting people who were born in the country.

And he definitely does not support a travel boycott, which he said could hurt the Dominican Republic and businesses in cities such as Lawrence.

“I’m not taking any sides in this. I want to find a solution,” said Moran. “I don’t want to be part of the problem.”

___

Click HERE for the original article.

The CEP and Elections in Haiti: Décharge Is the Price of the Ticket

July 17, 2015 - 14:16

Wesley Lainé, Legal Fellow at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, provides an in-depth analysis of the impact of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP, for Conseil Électoral Provisoire)’s decision to exclude candidates from the 2015 elections, based on the lack of a décharge.

Part of the briefing paper is below. Click HERE to read the full text.

The CEP and Elections in Haiti: Décharge Is the Price of the Ticket

Wesley Lainé, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti

July 17, 2015

“The biggest story so far in Haiti’s 2015 election process is the exclusion of fourteen out of seventy presidential candidates—many of them prominent figures—most for lack of an audit certificate, known in French as a décharge. The exclusions have been met with predictable criticism from the disqualified candidates and their supporters, but they also raise broader questions about the fairness of the elections scheduled for this year.”

Click HERE to read the full text.

Dominicans Face Statelessness, and the U.S. Remains Silent

July 15, 2015 - 09:59

Politicians, activists and lawyers are increasing the pressure on the Obama administration and U.S. State Department to defend those stripped of citizenship in the Dominican Republic. This is not an immigration issue, they say; many of the potential deportees are Dominicans, who were considered citizens until a 2013 court ruling applied retroactively to 1929 a constitutional amendment that limited citizenship to Dominican descendents. This excludes hundreds of thousands of immigrants and Dominicans born to foreign parents in the past 9 decades. Despite claims that Secretary of State John Kerry is engaging in talks with Dominican President Danilo Medina, many argue that these communications must be publicized and U.S. government officials should break their silence on this important issue.

Click HERE for the full article.

Obama silent on stateless Dominicans

Carolyn Guniss, The Miami Times

July 15, 2015

The silence from Congress, the U.S. State Department and President Barack Obama is troubling on civic and human rights violation by the Dominican Republic against Haitian-descendents living in Dominican Republic, said politicians, human rights activists and lawyers.

On a conference call Thursday, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and human rights activists told representatives from the state department that stripping aways citizenship from Haitians by the Dominican Republic is not an immigration issue as it is presented but a human rights violation and they wanted to know why Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama himself have not condemned the action.

Click HERE for the full article.

Pres. Martelly Supporters Received Contribution from US Government

July 15, 2015 - 06:44

Amid new claims about US influence in Haiti’s fraudulent 2010 elections, Al Jazeera has obtained evidence that documents the US’ substantial financial support for a political movement closely aligned with current President Michel Martelly. The US government contributed approximately $100,000 to Mouvement Tét Kale (MTK) through a branch of USAID. Although USAID defines MTK as a “network of community-based organizations,” former and current MTK members clarify that it is, in fact, a political movement and was integral in putting Martelly in power.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full article.

Revealed: USAID funded group supporting Haitian president in 2010

Jake Johnston, Al Jazeera

July 15, 2015

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The U.S. Agency for International Development gave nearly $100,000 to a Haitian political movement with close ties to President Michel Martelly in the country’s 2010 elections, documents obtained by Al Jazeera show. The money was allocated shortly after Washington helped overturn the election results to thrust Martelly into power.

On the afternoon of Haiti’s Nov. 28, 2010, elections, 12 of 18 presidential candidates took the stage at the glamorous Karibe Hotel, high up in the mountains that surround the capital. The elections were a fraudulent mess, they told the gathered press, and the only way out was to cancel the poll and start over. Chaos soon engulfed Port-au-Prince and other cities, as thousands of young Haitians, many clad in the pink synonymous with Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, took to the streets to simultaneously denounce electoral fraud and herald the victory of their candidate, many days before any official results would be announced.

Click HERE for the original article.

109 US law professors urge President Obama to lead on DR crisis

July 14, 2015 - 12:29

On July 14, 2015, over 100 professors and fellows from all over the United States sent a letter to President Obama demanding action on what’s happening in the Dominican Republic. They express concern at the racial motivations behind the 2013 Constitutional Court ruling that resulted in statelessness for thousands of Haitian-descent Dominicans, creating an analogy between that and their own status if the US were to implement similar laws. They urge the President not to leave these people powerless, but to use its influence to improve their situation.

Click HERE for the full text.

 

Miami, July 14, 2015

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

The undersigned law professors write to you to express our collective concern and request you to take action to stop the ongoing mass deportation of Dominicans of Haitian descent by the government of the Dominican Republic. As legal experts and concerned members of our society, we consider this a human rights emergency, and we call upon you to act on the impending threat to the lives of hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters. The deportation policy of the Dominican Republic violates three interrelated and fundamental norms of international, human rights and Dominican Constitutional law. It is a renunciation of the principle of birthright citizenship; it threatens an entire class of people with the status of statelessness, claimed by neither the Dominican Republic nor Haiti; and it is implemented through a policy of racial profiling.

As is the case for most of us, the fact that we were born in this country allows us to possess certain rights–we are protected by our Constitution, and among other things, can vote, and certain liberties are not to be disregarded without due process. Sadly, that birthright is being denied in the Dominican Republic. Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors in that land recently learned that their rights as citizens vanished in large part because of the color of their skin. It is, for instance, as if someone arbitrarily determined that because our forefathers and mothers were brought here on slave ships, or perhaps because we are here because our ancestors were invited by a lax immigration system, we are no longer welcome.

What would we be expected to do?

What if both political leaders and our court system decided we had to leave this country? Now let’s add to our problems–we were also part of your country’s poorest people, a people with virtually no political clout and certainly little economic force. We would have immediately become stateless, and would have nowhere to turn to for redress. It couldn’t happen, could it?

But as we are sure you know, in a 2013, decision widely decried as racially motivated, the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court (“DRCC”) decided, despite the language of its relevant constitution, citizenship was no longer conferred by birth on Dominican soil. The DRCC, however, did not stop there; it held that its decision applied retroactively for nearly 100 years. In other words, despite the language of its constitution, human rights norms, and decades of reasonable practice, in one stroke of a pen, the DRCC held generations of Dominican citizens, who have only known the Dominican Republic as their home, are now stateless. The DRCC couched its decision as an attempt to gain control of a growing immigration problem; however, this is not an immigration issue as these individuals were citizens, and no legal perversions should have ever changed that reality.

Click HERE for the full text.

Has international pressure stopped mass deportations from DR?

July 13, 2015 - 14:19

While the Dominican Republic (DR) has yet to make good on its promise of deporting people who failed to meet near-impossible registration requirements, advocates caution that deportations may still happen. Many fear that the only reason DR hasn’t kept the promise is because of the international outcry against it. Though outright deportations haven’t yet begun, many of Haitian descent are living in fear of violence, harassment and sudden forced deportations from DR.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Opinion: Ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic deserves condemnation

Raul A. Reyes, Fox News Latino

July 13, 2015

Last week, the Dominican Republic halted its plan to expel tens of thousands of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent from the country. According to U.S. News & World Report, pressure from the international community and a wave of negative press led the Dominican government to “pause” their proposed mass deportations. Human rights groups have warned that this is only a temporary respite from a humanitarian crisis.They are correct, because the situation in the Dominican Republic is far from settled. Press and public attention must continue to be focused on the scapegoating of Haitians by the Dominican government. It is barbaric, inhumane, and deserves condemnation.This controversy reflects the intertwined economies and history of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. For decades, Haitians have migrated to the Dominican Republic to work in the agricultural and service sectors, and their Dominican-born children were always considered Dominican citizens. Then in 2010, the Dominican Republic passed a constitutional amendment limiting citizenship to children of legal immigrants, or those with one Dominican parent. A 2013 court ruling made the law retroactive to 1929, which left thousands of people in a legal limbo.Last year, the Dominican government passed another law designed to restore citizenship to people whose births were in the national registry, and which promised an opportunity for others to naturalize their status. While in theory that sounds like a solution, the reality is far different. This path to citizenship requires documents that many Haitians in the Dominican Republic simply do not have. Many people born in poor rural areas, for example, lack birth certificates and other proof of identity. Bureaucracy, fees, and a lack of assistance from the Haitian government have also put this proposed fix out of reach for those who need it most.Meanwhile, the Dominican government set a June deadline for people to register and adjust their status, and has been making plans for forced repatriations. Only the resulting international outcry seems to have put the brakes on their plans – for now.

Click HERE for the full text.

Why are Haitians still dying from cholera?

July 12, 2015 - 09:33

In October 2010, United Nations (UN) peacekeepers carried cholera from Nepal, where an outbreak had begun in September, to Haiti. For the first time in at least 100 years, Haitians became ill with and died from cholera at very high rates until the epidemic slowed down in 2014. In 2015, it has re-surged and people are asking whether cholera can really be eliminated from Haiti when water and sanitation infrastructure remains abysmal and the government struggles to improve it. The UN has launched several iterations of a cholera elimination plan but potential donors have turned to other crises. Perhaps the UN accepting responsibility for the epidemic would help?

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Haiti’s Unstoppable Outbreak

Rose George, The Atlantic

July 12, 2015

In early February, when Jenniflore Abelard arrived at her parents’ house high in the hills of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, her father Johnson was home. (Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of patients and family members.) He was lying in the yard, under a tree, vomiting. When Jenniflore spoke to him, his responses, between retches, sounded strange: “nasal, like his voice was coming out of his nose.” He talked “like a zombie.” This is a powerful image to use in Haiti, where voodoo is practiced and where the supernatural doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it might elsewhere. Her father’s eyes were sunk back into his head. She was shocked, but she knew what this was, because she has lived through the past five years in Haiti. She has lived through the time of kolera.

On October 18, 2010, Cuban medical brigades working in the areas around the town of Mirebalais in Haiti reported a worrying increase in patients with acute, watery diarrhea and vomiting. There had been 61 cases the previous week, and on October 18 alone there were 28 new admissions and two deaths.

That was the beginning. Five years on, cholera has killed nearly 9,000 Haitians. More than 730,000 people have been infected. It is the worst outbreak of the disease, globally, in modern history. Hundreds of emergency and development workers have been working alongside the Haitian government for five years, trying to rid the country of cholera, and millions of dollars have been dispensed in the fight to eradicate it. But it’s still here. Why?

* * *

In 1884, the scientist Robert Koch sent a dispatch from Calcutta to the German Interior Ministry about the bacterium that he had been studying. It was “a little bent, like a comma,” he wrote. He was sure that this organism was causing the cholera that had been ravaging the world since 1817, when it laid waste to Bengal. Its onslaught there was shocking, even for a region that had had cholera—or something similar—for so long that there was a specific cholera goddess, Ola Beebee (translated as “our Lady of the Flux.”)

Ola Beebee was meant to protect against this mysterious affliction, which terrified people. Who would not be scared by seeing “the lips blue, the face haggard, the eyes hollow, the stomach sunk in, the limbs contracted and crumpled as if by fire?” Although 1817 is the official starting date of the first cholera pandemic, humans and cholera have almost certainly coexisted for far longer: That description of cholera’s distinct symptoms was inscribed on a temple in Gujarat, India, over 2,000 years ago.

The world is currently living through the seventh and longest cholera pandemic, which began in Indonesia in 1961 and, before Haiti, was most famous for an outbreak that devastated South America in 1991, killing 12,000 people in 21 countries.

People with access to clean water and sanitation probably think of cholera as being as old-fashioned as smallpox, and long gone. Surely the problem now is Ebola? Away from headlines, though, the gram-negative, rod-shaped bacillusVibrio cholerae has been consistently murderous. It is currently present in 58 countries, infecting 3 to 5 million people a year and killing 100,000 to 120,000. This latest pandemic, wrote Edward T. Ryan of Harvard University, “as opposed to burning out after 5 to 20 years as all previous pandemics have done… seems to be picking up speed.”

Click HERE for the full text.

Humanitarian Crisis Worsens on DR-Haiti Border

July 11, 2015 - 13:39

The migrant and Haitian-descended populations in the Dominican Republic are rife with fear. These individuals face potential deportation after a 2013 Supreme Court ruling retroactively stripped citizenship from children born to illegal immigrants during or after 1929. Thousands have fled the Dominican Republic for fear that they would undergo even more hardships at the hand of Dominican authorities if discovered. The US and other countries must intervene to alleviate this humanitarian crisis.

Click HERE for the full article.

End the misery on Hispaniola

Miami Herald Editorial Board

July 11, 2015

The deportation and forcible removal of people that the government of the Dominican Republic identifies as Haitian has created a severe humanitarian crisis along its shared border that must be halted before it creates greater misery.

The Dominican ambassador to the United States makes a welcome declaration today — see his message on the Other Views page — that no one born in the Dominican Republic will be deported, and that no one entitled to legal Dominican nationality will be deprived of it. His government adamantly maintains that it is merely trying to fix a broken immigration and citizenship system that brings everyone in the country into a “legal framework.”

But credible reports from journalists and human-rights organizations describe forcible deportations by the military, streams of people fleeing the country out of fear that they, too, will be kicked out without any right to appeal and rough treatment by Dominican authorities at every turn. It flies in the face of reality to pretend that large numbers of people are not being uprooted and leaving involuntarily.

The Dominican claim of a sovereign right to regulate all matters within its borders regarding immigration and citizenship — which no one questions — does not justify sowing panic among those who lack the right documentation.

Click HERE for the full article.

Demand for Cholera Justice Continues to Increase

July 10, 2015 - 13:29

Professor Fran Quigley, of Indiana University’s Robert H McKinney School of Law, reflects on the enormous outpouring of support for the cholera victims’ appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In total, 86 legal practitioners, organizations, academics and former UN officers submitted 6 briefs before the court in support of the cholera victims’ struggle for justice. In this IndyStar article, Professor Quigley commends the broad coalition of support, noting that the briefs should certainly ‘make UN leadership sit up and take notice.”

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Quigley: UN has promises to keep in Haiti

Fran Quigley, Indy Star

July 10, 2015

The announcement by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti was only a slight exaggeration: “Everyone Tells UN to Fulfill Its Legal Obligations to Haiti Cholera Victims.”

The statement referred to those who signed on to amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs asking the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals to allow a class action claim by Haiti cholera victims to go forward. And the list does seem to encompass nearly “everyone” that has an interest in justice and the rule of law, in Haiti and beyond: human rights experts, Haitian-American leaders, constitutional law scholars, and even a line-up of former UN officials.

All are calling for justice for victims of the 2010 epidemic triggered by human waste recklessly discharged from a UN base in rural Haiti. The death toll stands at a shocking 9,000; over 700,000 more have been sickened.

I should note that I am happy to be included as part of “everyone” in this case. On behalf of our law school Health and Human Rights Clinic, I helped draft and signed on to the brief submitted by international law scholars and attorneys.

Click HERE for the full text.

Who’s Running a “Misinformation Campaign” About the DR Crisis?

July 10, 2015 - 11:42

When a registration deadline passed in June, the Dominican Republic (DR) promised to deport those who failed to meet the requirements. DR faced an international outcry from human rights advocates and other Caribbean nations, but so far, no significant response from the US government. Since June, DR has maintained that international media and human rights groups are misrepresenting what’s really going on. The article below provides evidence that DR may be doing the misleading. DR apparently hired a lobbying firm, Steptoe & Johnson, to help stem the negative reactions to their inhumane policies. Steptoe & Johnson was asked to place opinion pieces in mainstream US media and meet with members of the foreign affairs committee, among other duties. Perhaps that has something to do with the US government’s delayed public response to the crisis?

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Dominican Republic Spending Big Bucks on DC Lobbyist to Pushback on Criticism of Migration Policy

Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch, Center for Economic and Policy Research

July 10, 2015

In September 2013 the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court ruled that those born to undocumented foreigners would not be able to maintain citizenship, mainly impacting Dominicans of Haitian descent. The deadline to formalize one’s legal status passed in June, with many thousands left unable to do so because of a lack of documentation. Already nearly 40,000 have “voluntarily” self-deported to Haiti, fearing a looming crackdown in the country many of them have never left. At a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Wednesday, Haitian foreign minister Lener Renauld accused the Dominicans of leaving Haitians at the border “like dogs.”

But just three months after the court’s ruling, before the world’s attention turned to the island of Hispaniola and the humanitarian crisis on the border, the Dominican Republic hired a D.C.-based lobbying firm to assist with “consolidating and strengthening the image of the Dominican State in the eyes of the [sic] international public opinion,” according to documents filed as part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The documents show that the Dominican Republic paid the lobbying firm Steptoe & Johnson over $820,000 between January and August of 2014. The relationship appears to be ongoing however, and it is likely that those costs have only increased with the spotlight now firmly on the Dominican Republic and the firm bringing in hourly rates of around $1,000.

Click HERE for the full text.

Boston Haitian Community Stands Against DR Deportation Crisis

July 9, 2015 - 15:46

In 2013, a Dominican Republic (DR) Constitutional Court issued a ruling that stripped citizenship from people who were formerly considered Dominican, all the way back to 1929. The majority of people affected by this ruling are Dominicans of Haitian descent. On July 9, 2015 the Boston Haitian community held a protest to denounce this ruling and threatened deportations by DR’s government but were greeted by a group of Dominicans at the DR Consulate. This article covers the protest and ensuing standoff, including IJDH legal intern Wesley Lainé’s observations at the DR-Haiti border.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text and video.

WATCH: Bostonians React to Hispaniola Migration Crisis

Adam Reilly, WGBH News

July 9, 2015

There was an intense standoff in downtown Boston yesterday between members of the city’s sizable Haitian American and Dominican American communities. Both groups gathered outside the Park Plaza Hotel, near the entrance to the Dominican Consulate, waving flags and hoisting signs as a watchful contingent of Boston police looked on.

The protesters’ grievances go far beyond Boston. Recently, the Dominican Republic stripped citizenship from some 200,000 residents of Haitian descent—and it’s threatening to deport those who don’t register as foreigners.

In fact, some international observers say deportations have already begun, and that people who should be allowed to remain in the Dominican Republic are being forced out.

Wesley Laine is a legal fellow at Dorchester’s Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. He just returned from a fact-finding trip to the Dominican-Haitian border—and says that while the people he spoke with hadn’t been formally deported, they were fleeing under duress.

“The clients I interviewed really spoke to me about persecution, having to leave their homes, seeing their homes being burned down,” Laine said. “Being harassed by soldiers, being harassed by policemen, even being harassed by their neighbors.

Click HERE for the full text and video.

Iowa Senator Grassley Demands Answers on Haiti Spending by Red Cross

July 9, 2015 - 11:59

In June, after an investigation into their work, the Red Cross came under fire for mismanagement of about $500 million donated to the organization for Haiti earthquake relief and reconstruction. Now, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley is asking for better answers, in an open letter to the organization. Among those demands are a breakdown of spending for all their projects in Haiti and an explanation of previously-noted internal delays.

 

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Sen. Grassley Demands Red Cross Disclose Haiti Spending — And Gives Them a DeadlineThe “disappointed” Judiciary Committee chairman wants a detailed breakdown of spending on projects, overhead and other issues.

Justin Elliott, ProPublica

July 9, 2015

Sen. Charles Grassley is demanding the American Red Cross explain how it spent nearly half a billion dollars raised after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

In a letter yesterday to Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern, the Iowa Republican gave the venerated charity until July 22 to answer 17 detailed questions, many of which it has never addressed publicly.

Grassley’s letter was prompted by a ProPublica and NPR report last month on how the charity broke multiple promises in its effort to help the impoverished country, including by building just six permanent homes.

“A few months ago I met with you and your team to discuss performance, improvements and whistleblower issues,” Grassley wrote. “I was assured that the Red Cross had made substantial steps forward in improving efficiencies and reducing waste, fraud and abuse within the organization. However, the recent news articles cast doubt on some representations made by the Red Cross.”

Click HERE for the full text.

Briefing on Amnesty International Mission to Dominican Republic

July 9, 2015 - 09:00

Please join Amnesty International USA for a briefing on recent Amnesty International Mission to the Dominican Republic.

WHEN:

Thursday, July 9, 2015
12:00 pm -1:30pm

WHERE:

600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, 5 th floor
Washington, DC 20003

WHAT:

Please join Amnesty International USA’s DC National Office for a briefing on Amnesty International’s preliminary findings based on a recent mission to the Dominican Republic carried out from June 14 to June 27. The mission aimed at assessing the situation of people who were deprived of their Dominican nationality by a Dominican Constitutional Court ruling in September 2013. The mission also included advocacy with the Dominican authorities to avoid the expulsions of those individuals.

Amnesty International’s delegates met with authorities, members of the diplomatic community, civil society organizations, and affected populations. AI Delegates documented dozens of cases, and visited the Dominican/Haitian border.

Marselha Gonçalves Margerin, Advocacy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA, was part of the delegation and will be able to share its preliminary findings and recommendations.

If you are unable to attend, but wish to participate, you may join the briefing via phone.
US Toll Free: +1 (844) 3973150
International toll free: +1 (212) 2317870
Access code: 846275
International numbers available: https://zoom.us/zoomconference
Please RSVP to america@aiusa.org

Haitian Diaspora Letter Demands Justice for Cholera Victims

July 9, 2015 - 08:24

154 Haitian-American organizations and leaders signed on to a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry, demanding justice for Haiti’s cholera victims. Despite ample scientific evidence proving UN responsibility for the epidemic, the UN has yet to admit this and struggles to raise funds for water and sanitation. The UN also refuses to compensate cholera victims, who have suffered a lot physically, financially and emotionally.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Haitian groups sign cholera letter, head of U.N. campaign ends tenure

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

July 9, 2015

More than 150 Haitian-American organizations and prominent personalities including Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat and Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul have signed a letter urging U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary of State John Kerry to clear the path for justice for Haiti’s cholera victims.

The U.S. government has actively argued for United Nations immunity in a lawsuit to compensate victims of the deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti, and in January a U.S. district judge dismissed one of several suits filed by human rights groups and victims on the basis that the U.N. had not waived the broad immunity it enjoys under its charter.

Endorsed by diaspora organizations and political, religious and other community leaders across the United States, the letter calls on the United States to support compensation. It also calls for support for the implantation of water and sanitation infrastructure in poverty-stricken Haiti where 8,964 people have been killed and another 744,147 sickened by cholera in nearly five years.

Human rights advocates say the Haitian government data show that the number of recorded cases has tripled in the first quarter of 2015, compared to the same quarter of 2014.

Click HERE for the full text.

154 Haitian-American Groups and Leaders Express Outrage at US and UN: Open Letter Calls for Just Response to Cholera in Haiti

July 9, 2015 - 06:55

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Kermshlise Picard, Communications Coordinator, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti; kermshlise@ijdh.org, 617-652-0876

154 Haitian-American Groups and Leaders Express Outrage at US and UN: Open Letter Calls for Just Response to Cholera in Haiti

Boston, July 9, 2015 – 154 Haitian-American diaspora organizations and political, religious and other community leaders nationwide called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry to clear the path for justice for victims of cholera in a letter released on Thursday, July 9, 2015. Expressing “deep outrage” at the UN’s failure to take responsibility for the cholera epidemic it introduced to Haiti in 2010, the letter stresses the need for victims to access justice and the implementation of water and sanitation infrastructure to combat the epidemic.

Among the 89 prominent individual leaders endorsing the letter are author Edwidge Danticat and other artists; 22 current and former political leaders including Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul, MA State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, Florida State Representative Daphne D. Campbell, and New York State Assemblypersons Rodneyse Bichotte, Michaelle C. Solages and Kimberly Jean-Pierre; 13 religious leaders; as well as five prominent doctors.

Nassau County, NY Legislator Carrie Solages said: “the UN, like all of us, must be held accountable for their actions, and work to correct the horror this outbreak caused in Haiti.  Specifically, the UN must install the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control cholera and compensate the victims of this epidemic for their significant physical, emotional and financial burdens due to cholera.”

The 65 endorsing organizations include the major nationally recognized federations and professional groups; Haitian American Lawyers associations in New York, New Jersey, and Florida; and the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad (AMHE) with its eight national chapters; and the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON). Geographically, the 154 organizations and leaders hail from Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Florida, Maryland, Georgia, Kansas, Oregon, and Montreal, Canada.

“We have lost family and friends to cholera, and we live with the threat of losing more of our loved ones … Our community has also taken on significant financial burdens due to cholera, as we support our relatives’ funeral expenses, health care costs, and school fees for children orphaned by the epidemic,” the diaspora leaders write.

The letter comes at a time when the epidemic is worsening: in the first quarter of 2015, the Haitian Government recorded a tripling of cases as compared to the same quarter of 2014.  To date, cholera has killed over 8,900 people and sickened more than 730,000. The death toll from cholera in Haiti alone is now comparable to the toll of Ebola worldwide since 2010.

New York State Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre stated, “there is no denying the Haitian people are suffering and I once again renew my call to the much needed aid that is needed for the country and the United Nation’s accountability to address this crisis as efficient and quickly as possible.”

City of North Miami Councilman Alix Desulme expressed deep concern that the UN has not taken full responsibility for its actions. The Councilman urged that the UN “has a moral obligation to accept responsibility and fully help Haiti overcome this epidemic: to find a solution to the problem of not having water and an adequate sewer system.”

Florida State Representative Daphne Campbell echoed this support. Campbell stated, “As a Registered Nurse for over 30 years, as a mother, and as a State Representative of Haitian descent, I am appealing to all organizations throughout the United States and to all elected officials, both national and international, to join together to end this malicious disease for the betterment of all Haitians residing in Haiti.”

Today, these 154 Haitian-American diaspora organizations and leaders unite in solidarity to insist that the United Nations must be much more accountable to Haiti’s thousands of cholera victims.

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Are people self-deporting or fleeing from DR?

July 9, 2015 - 05:10

This article sheds light on what those who are allegedly “self-deporting” from the Dominican Republic (DR) to Haiti are facing both in DR and once they arrive in Haiti. Many of them left due to threats or promises that self-deportation would allow them to re-enter DR legally in the future, whereas waiting to be deported by officials would lead to a 3-year ban from DR. In Haiti, there isn’t a good support system for the massive influx of immigrants. Two IJDH legal interns who went on a delegation to the border are quoted in this article as well.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

How The Dominican Republic Is Trying To Remove Its Immigrant Population

Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, Think Progress

July 9, 2015

Melila, a 30-year-old Haitian national, moved to the Dominican Republic to study medicine 12 years ago. She found love, got married, and had four children with a Dominican citizen. But when her mother sent her money to complete the naturalization process, her request was denied.

A few weeks ago, she and her family packed up their bags and “self-deported” from the country that they’ve called home. They likely face hurdles ahead. All four of Melila’s children were born in the Dominican Republic “and had never been to Haiti and do not speak Creole or French,” her cousin, Marie Dorelus, told ThinkProgress. “Her husband barely speaks Creole.”

The family is now supported by Melila’s mother in Haiti.

Melila’s exodus from the Dominican Republic comes at a time when the Dominican government has begun forcibly removing Haitians and other Dominicans of Haitian descent, as part of an effort to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

Click HERE for the full text.

Open Letter from the Haitian-American Community to UN Secretary-General Ban and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Cholera in Haiti

July 8, 2015 - 14:52

July 8, 2015

Open Letter from the Haitian-American Community to UN Secretary-General Ban and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Cholera in Haiti

Dear Secretary-General Ban and Secretary Kerry,

We are writing as members of the Haitian-American community to express our deep outrage at the United Nations’ failure to take responsibility for the cholera epidemic it brought to Haiti. We are especially troubled by the dismissal of Georges et al v. United Nations et al., a lawsuit brought by cholera victims seeking a just UN response, and the continued refusal by the UN to provide remedies to the victims out of court. The UN should not be permitted to evade accountability on this issue. It is imperative for the U.S. government to ensure the UN complies with its legal obligations to install the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control cholera and compensate the victims.

Cholera has killed over 8,900 Haitians and sickened over 730,000 since its introduction into Haiti in October 2010. Every week 630 people are infected and seven are killed. We have lost family and friends to cholera, and we live with the threat of losing more of our loved ones. We also continue to fear for our community, as Haitian-Americans visiting family in Haiti are among those who have contracted the disease and died. Our community has also taken on significant financial burdens due to cholera, as we support our relatives’ funeral expenses, health care costs, and school fees for children orphaned by the epidemic.

Overwhelming and conclusive evidence—from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, world-renowned universities and the UN’s own Independent Panel of Experts— establishes, in the words of former US President Bill Clinton, that UN peacekeeping troops were “the proximate cause of cholera.” The UN’s refusal to take responsibility despite this evidence has led a growing number of world leaders and concerned citizens—including current and former UN officials such as former High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and former UNICEF Deputy Director Stephen Lewis, over 100 members of the U.S. Congress, the Haitian Senate, and thousands of Haitian activists—to join our calls for justice. As U.S. Congressman John Conyers recently remarked, the UN’s handling of the crisis has become “a stain on the world’s conscience.”

The dismissal of Georges et al v. UN compounds the crisis. We regret the UN sought to evade responsibility in the case by relying on unprecedented, broad interpretations of its international agreements, and the United States government chose to assert that position in court. This position is inconsistent with the victims’ right to access court. The court’s decision makes it imperative that the UN heed the most recent calls of 77 members of U.S. Congress to immediately establish a fair and impartial settlement mechanism for the victims.

We find the UN’s response that it is “focusing on water and sanitation” disingenuous. In over four years, the UN has raised only 13% of the funds needed for its plan to eliminate cholera, while it has spent much more over that time on soldiers in Haiti. Moreover, improved access to water and sanitation, though an essential component of any comprehensive response to the cholera epidemic, is not a sufficient solution. Victims must also have access to remedies for the physical, emotional, and financial injuries they have suffered. Further, the UN must formally admit responsibility for this disaster.

The UN mission in Haiti has spent over $2.5 billion in the last four years, much of it from U.S. taxpayers, with a primary mandate of promoting the rule of law. The mission’s refusal to comply with its legal obligations to Haiti’s cholera victims denies it the credibility necessary to effectively promote the rule of law in Haiti. It also sets a dangerous example about the ability of the powerful to avoid justice, which will come back to haunt Haitians.

We are committed to advocating for the cholera victims until they obtain justice, and urge you to take immediate action to ensure that victims of cholera receive a just response.

Sincerely,

The undersigned

(Click HERE for the list of organizations, and pdf of the letter.)

 

Boston Activists Unite Against DR Deportations

July 5, 2015 - 07:20

Activists worldwide are uniting against the Dominican Republic (DR)’s recent decision to begin deporting those who didn’t meet a registration deadline. These activists include Dominicans themselves, and the Haitian community, both of whom are most affected by this decision. In a June 30th press conference, Boston politicians urged Americans to boycott the Dominican Republic until this decision is reversed, as tourism is a major part of DR’s budget. The article also includes a quote from IJDH legal intern Wesley Lainé, who spoke to people coming into Haiti at the border with DR.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Deportations of noncitizens in Dominican Republic protested by activists in Boston

Laura Crimaldi, The Boston Globe

July 5, 2015

In the Dominican Republic, which is best known to some for its beaches, the deportations of noncitizens have divided the Caribbean nation and left thousands of people stateless or seeking refuge in Haiti, where their ties may be tenuous or nonexistent.

But in Boston and other places across the country where people with ties to the Dominican Republic and Haiti have established sizable enclaves, the deportations have united people from both sides of the island in protest of what many are calling a humanitarian crisis.

“Eventually it’s going to be our problem here so we have to deal with it on the island now,” said Marie St. Fleur, a Haitian-American and former state representative.

St. Fleur was among representatives of the local Haitian and Dominican communities who met in front of the State House Tuesday to raise awareness about the deportations, which mostly affect people who are of Haitian descent or from Haiti.

Click HERE for the full text.

Looming Deportations Strain Relationships in DR

July 4, 2015 - 11:28

Last month, Dominican Republic (DR) authorities threatened to start deporting those who failed to meet a June 17th registration deadline. This decision has strained ties between many Dominicans and people of Haitian descent within DR, many of whom coexisted for generations and have become close friends. The article compares this conflict with the issues many countries worldwide are having with their own immigration laws and how to enforce them without trampling migrants’ rights. However, one must remember that many at risk of deportation in DR were there legally for decades before DR passed a law that retroactively denied their citizenship all the way back to 1929.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Dominican Plan to Expel Haitians Tests Close Ties

Azam Ahmed & Sandra E. Garcia, The New York Times

July 4, 2015

SABANETA, Dominican Republic — For decades, the people of Barrio Cementerio, a neighborhood divided evenly between Dominicans and Haitians, have shared a peaceful coexistence. Proximity smothered prejudice: Working side by side and raising families together helped keep tensions in check.That is changing now. A government plan that could deport tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people of Haitiandescent from the Dominican Republic has started to tear at the unity that once bound this place, forcing residents to pick a side.A bitter landlord stopped renting to a Haitian tenant. The head of the local Red Cross says the deportations are long overdue, while a gang leader promises to hide his Haitian friends from the authorities. A Dominican husband fears losing his wife and their children, who have no papers. A police officer agonizes over the prospect of having to deport his best friend, who came to this country illegally from Haiti.“I have no choice,” said John Tapia Thomas, the police officer, outside his friend’s makeshift Internet cafe. “It saddens me to think about being ordered to detain someone I really care about. It will be hard not to make exceptions, but I have to go about my job as professionally as I can.”…

Click HERE for the full text.

What’s Really Happening on the DR-Haiti Border?

July 2, 2015 - 23:33

In the past few weeks, both the Dominican Republic (DR) and Haitian governments have reported thousands of people of Haitian descent voluntarily leaving DR across the border to Haiti. A BAI/IJDH delegation of lawyers and legal interns found that this is not quite the case. Most of the people the delegates spoke to at the border reported leaving after receiving threats and other harassment. The conditions in which they crossed the border are also not as DR officials described: Instead of air-conditioned buses, the delegation witnessed arrivals in over-crowded school buses and even an uncovered cargo truck meant for carrying plantains. The author of this article, one of the legal interns, urges people to think critically about statements from the DR government before accepting them.

The Dominican Republic’s dubious claims about Haitian exodus

Mark Phillips, Al Jazeera

July 3, 2015

A humanitarian crisis erupted in the Dominican Republic (DR) last month, when the government rolled out laws designed to allow the expulsion of massive numbers of Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent. On Monday the DR government reassured the world that although over 25,000 people have left the DR, they did so voluntarily, in “private and air-conditioned buses” provided by the DR government.

This story is designed to soothe the global outcry over the anti-Haitian law. It’s also a lie.

On June 25 near the border town of Belladère, I visited the crossing as part of a delegation of nine human rights lawyers and law students from the U.S., Haiti, Australia and Canada. The delegation was coordinated by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux. We aimed to gather a clearer picture of what was happening on the ground.

What we witnessed was a reality starkly at odds with claims made by the DR government.

Trouble for Dominicans of Haitian descent began last year, when DR courts retroactively reversed the rule that anyone born on DR soil is entitled to citizenship. Haitians living in the DR without legal status are now considered simply in transit, meaning that any children of their children born in the DR no longer have DR citizenship. Because the rule is retroactive to 1929, it can strip Dominican citizenship from multiple generations.

To soften this harsh rule amid a backlash, the DR soon adopted Law 169-14, allowing these Dominicans a legal pathway to retain their citizenship, as well as Decree 327-13, allowing Haitians in the DR with irregular status to be regularized. Although Decree 327-13 states that applicants may provide any of five alternative identification documents, including birth certificates, we heard that in practice DR officials were  accepting only a passport — and no one we spoke to had access to one.

So under the duress of these new rules, people have begun to leave.

During our visit, over just a few hours, we witnessed about 400 people entering Haiti from the DR at the Belladère crossing. Some were in the back of a large steel cargo truck; others in hot, overcrowded school buses, their belongings tied to the roof. The Haitian authorities seemed not to count most passengers as they entered the country, and only a minority on each bus got off to show their documents to officials.

The Dominican government is clamoring to redeem itself in the eyes of the international community, but the reality flies in the face of its statements.

Most of the arrivals in Haiti may thus be undocumented, leaving us with underestimates of the true numbers who have already left the DR, with flowing across the border daily.

That possibility is even more likely, given the systematic efforts we observed by authorities on both sides of the border to emphasize that travel was voluntary and to downplay the number of people crossing.

For example, staff from Haiti’s National Office of Immigration initially told our delegation that these were simply the usual trips made by workers on the DR side, implying that they were part of routine seasonal migration patterns. But the passengers said they had been in the DR for years; one man I spoke with hadn’t left the country since 1978. Most of those we spoke with had spent two to eight years in the DR.

On the DR side of the border, we observed a cargo truck — previously used to transport plantains — pull up alongside one of the full school buses parked nearby. We learned that the bus driver refused to continue to Haiti and negotiated to have the cargo truck carry the passengers the rest of the way to Port-de-Paix, in the north of Haiti. The steel, open-air truck box was dirty, smaller than the school bus and not designed for carrying people, especially for hours in the hot sun. Passengers yelled at the driver, saying they were being treated like animals. A few women with babies on their laps were then allowed to sit in the front of the truck with the driver. All others, including several small children, had to stand or sit on their luggage in the back of the truck’s dusty steel box. Several individuals had to hang off the sides of the truck.

This ride, as it turns out, was not provided by the DR government. Nor was it free. Passengers told us they paid the equivalent of up to $60, a large sum for impoverished workers in the DR. To put it in perspective, the next day the Haitian government pledged relief funds to help those passing through the town of Belladère that work out to 110 Haitian gourdes, or $2.15 per person.

When we brought the miserable conditions to the attention of a DR border official who identified himself as “an expert in international human rights law,” he told us that this was beyond the scope of responsibility of his office because it was a Haitian problem.

Air-conditioned buses, then, seem to have been designed for the ears of the international press rather than for the benefit of people fleeing the DR. And it became clear to us that these departures are anything but voluntary.

In interviews, the people we spoke with tended to start by telling us they had chosen to leave. But as soon as we asked them why, they cited threats and other pressures on them to exit the DR, sometimes originating from DR police and militia.

They may not have been dragged out of the country in custody in a formal deportation, but their exit — leaving their families, jobs and lives and for a country with a weak economy — was in no other way consensual. Even Haitian immigration officials later confirmed that they, too, had heard stories of people being threatened with beatings, imprisonment or having their homes burned down if they didn’t leave. In their words, this was volontè-fòse (“forced voluntary” in Haitian Creole).

Given the gravity of the humanitarian crisis unfolding, it is important to consider the experiences of those who are directly affected by threats or risk of deportation rather than simply accepting the DR government’s assessment of its operations. The government is clamoring to redeem itself in the eyes of the international community, but the reality on the ground flies in the face of its statements.

Mark Phillips is an Ella Baker legal fellow with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

 

Click HERE for the original article.