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MARIA HINJOSA: Martide Renausier was deported to her native Haiti three months ago. She lives in a poor village called Fonds Bayard…full of other Haitians who have been forced to leave the Dominican Republic. Renausier lived and worked in the D.R. for eight years.
MARTIDE: I worked as a maid there. I washed, ironed clothes, and cooked. I could provide for my kids. I had a home. All I see here is misery.
MARIA HINJOSA: Some who have spoken against the recent deportations include Amnesty International, Jesuit Refugee Service, and the Dominican civil rights group MUDHA -- the Movement of Dominican-Haitian women.
SONIA: The people being arrested are kicked out and left with nothing sent to a country that is going through an epidemic.
Sonia Pierre is the group’s founder.
MARIA HINJOSA: Pierre is herself a Dominican of Haitian descent. She claims that it isn’t just newly arrived Haitians who are being deported from the D.R.
SONIA: They are deporting people who’ve lived all of their lives here and sending them back to Haiti. They were born here. Children without their families. Mothers with their newborns. Sending them to a country they’ve never lived in, where there is no water, absolutely nothing? They don’t ask for a document. If they think you look like you could be Haitian, you are getting on the bus. It’s that simple.
MARIA HINJOSA: but it is an alleged reason Haitians are being deported that has Pierre -- and a growing chorus of international critics – accusing the Dominican government of human rights violations. They say the Dominican Republic is targeting Haitians for expulsion … because of their race. It’s a serious accusation. In Santo Domingo, the country’s highest ranking immigration official. He adamantly denied the charge.
SIGFRIDO: I object to looking at our throwing out the Haitians as a racial matter. I reject the idea that we do it because they are black, no, no, no, no. It is because many of them are illegal.
MARIA HINJOSA: Sigfrido Pared Perez, the D.R.’s Director of Immigration says that there were over one million undocumented Haitians in the country – some 10 per cent of the population. Roughly 200,000 more have entered in the aftermath of the earthquake. The Dominican government told us that after the earthquake in 2010, it was the first country to come to Haiti’s aid – not keeping people out, but actually easing border control to allow more Haitians in. And Dominican hospitals cared for some 20,000 injured quake victims. But now, officials say, they simply can’t afford to go on as they have been. Perez says the influx of Haitians is crowding hospitals and schools, taking jobs away from Dominicans, and bringing cholera across the border. Dominican health authorities say 650 people in the D.R. have been infected. Seven have died.
MARIA HINJOSA: Is this really a moment to be doing massive deportations of undocumented Haitians?
SIGRFRIDO: They are not massive (deportations). They are done in areas where (Haitians) just recently arrived.
MARIA HINJOSA: Just this morning I saw a bus, just outside of your offices. I approached, one person who I spoke to said that “I’ve been living in this country 14 years. And we’ve heard this from others… that it’s not just people who have been here for months, weeks, but people who’ve been living here for years.
SIGFRIDO: We investigate them when they arrive here to the Immigration Department. If the person has been here long we let them go, even if they are here illegally. Then, we start the process of deportation for those people who have not been here long enough to be considered as ‘established’ in the Dominican Republic.
MARIA HINJOSA: Perez says that detained Haitians who show that they live in the D.R., have a job, children or family are released immediately. He even notes that the D.Rs.’ own human rights law forbids the separation of families. Yet Martide Renausier told us she had a job, gave birth to two children in the Dominican Republic, and lived there for eight years...and still she was deported. She also told us she and her children were deported separately from her husband. And deportations aren’t the only concern for Haitians in the D.R. A law passed in January has stripped many Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship. Like the United States, the D.R. used to grant citizenship to all children born on its soil, including those of immigrants. But this past January the constitution was changed to define Dominican nationals as being “the sons and daughters of a Dominican mother or father.”
SONIA: We are sure that those changes to the constitution are related to that Dominican population of Haitian heritage, to the children of Haitian immigrants, because I don’t think this would happen to the children of a Spanish person, or from any other nationality. But the children of Haitian immigrants are an issue for the state.
MARIA HINJOSA: The U.S. State Department estimates that hundreds of thousands of people here have become in effect stateless, not belonging to either the Dominican Republic or Haiti. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an international organization that investigates human rights abuses in the Americas, is investigating the situation. The Haitian-Dominican “situation” has a long and complex history. Racism has played a part. The dictator Raphael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic for some three decades in the mid-twentieth century, encouraged white immigrants to move into the country while pushing Haitians out. Trujillo said “Ay que blanquer la raza” … “you have to whiten the race.” In 1937, Trujillo ordered a massacre of Haitians living in the borderlands. As many as 30,000 were murdered. But that was 70 years ago. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of Haitians who have lived and worked in the Dominican Republic for years. Haitian labor helps fuel the Dominican economy. Today Haitians are contributing to a tourism and construction boom… but many live in crude work compounds called Bateyes that frequently have no running water, toilets, or electricity.
MARIA HINJOSA: We met these Haitian laborers outside a chicken farm that they work and live on.
LABORER #1: [We are] forced work… For example, we work for miserable wages. Sometimes we have to work day and night. It’s hell. I have to be able to put up with it, because we need to work, even if we’re being exploited [forced], because otherwise we don’t eat.
MARIA HINJOSA: They tell us that some Haitians here possess a card that allows them to be in the country to work – and live – only on the farm. If they step off the premises, immigration can deport them.
MARIA HINJOSA: Are you afraid? Are you afraid to be out on the streets?
IDELSON (LABORER #2): Yes. I am afraid I’ll be taken away at once.
MARIA HINJOSA: Two weeks after our interview, Sigfrido Pared Perez lost his job, replaced by a new Director of Immigration from a political party known for its anti-Haitian rhetoric. The local press reported that the change signaled an even tougher government crackdown on the Haitian population. And yet, back in haiti….in Fonds Bayard, the village of deportees, Martide Renausier tells us she wants nothing more than to return to the life she had … in the country that does not want her back.
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