Locals Protest Mass Deportation in Dominican Republic

“White silence is violence.” “We are all Haitians.” “Somos Dominicanos.”

These were some of the signs held up by hundreds of locals as they protested the mass deportation of hundreds of thousands of Haitians Monday evening in Dupont Circle.

The event began with a rally and speakers in the urban park and was followed by a march to the Embassy of Dominican Republic.

“We’re bringing attention to this because it’s a human rights issue and it’s an issue right in our backyard,” said France Francois, who works with the Association of Haitian Professionals, an organizer for the event.

The mass deportation has been hot in the media lately but stems from a 2013 Supreme Court Ruling in the Dominican Republic, which embraced a definition of citizenship that dates back to 1929: Only the children of Dominican parents and legal residents are Dominicans.

This translated to approximately 200,000–250,000 residents of Haitian-descent losing their citizenship and many being deported back to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

After it was internationally scrutinized last year, the Dominican Republic created a path to citizenship, or the regularization process, for undocumented children born in the country.

The deadline to file the necessary paperwork to go through the process was June 17.

According to the Associated Press, nearly 290,000 filed for the program, but only 10,000 could provide the documents due to poverty, the recent hurricane or because of the strictness of the process.

“The embassy is a representative of the Dominican government and we want them to know that we’re also paying attention to this crisis in America.” said Francois.

“It’s so important to us that we felt a march was appropriate,” she added.

Linda Leaks, who was in attendance, agreed with the need to speak out despite being across an ocean.

“I have to be out here to raise my voice when this kind of genocide happens,” she said. “I’ve been fighting for justice forever and ever and it’s only possible with a lot of voices.”

The Dominican Republic continues to stand by its law. In a 2013 blog post, the Embassy in DC stated that it’s being more generous than most countries.

The Dominican Constitution only grants Dominican citizenship to the children of foreigners residing legally in the country. Over 80% of all countries in the world do not grant citizenship simply by birth in its territory. Haiti, for example, is one of them.

They also responded to fears of deportation, stating in the same blog post:

The audit conducted of the national civil registry after the Ruling determined that there are 53,847 foreigners registered, of which 24,392 do not meet the requirements or do not possess valid documentation to obtain Dominican nationality. Out of this total, only 13,672 are descendants of Haitian nationals.

It’s the latest spat in a centuries old feud for the two countries that share one island.

“This isn’t an isolated issue,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro, D-4, of the Montgomery City Council who spoke at the event. “It’s been happening for generations and this has historical precedent.”

“We cannot stand by in the U.S. and let this happen,” she added.

A White House petition has garnered about 45,000 signatures, a little under half of what is necessary by its deadline of mid-July for a White House response.

“Whatever human energy I have, I raise it,” said Leaks. “I don’t have a lot of power but I have a little bit of voice. There were those who had the opportunity (to speak against slavery) but they didn’t. We have to raise our voice when this kind of thing happens.”