Yesibon Senatus is 70 years old and Haitian by birth. He is a sugarcane cutter and for years has been fighting for a pension and Dominican residency.
Quesnel Michell is 22 years old, the son of sugarcane workers. Born in the Dominican Republic (DR), he was registered by his parents at the Central Romana company office in Batey Magdalena. The Dominican government recently denied him identity papers because his parents were not “legal residents”.
Yanell’s situation is even worse. Her birth was never registered. The officials refused. Her parents could not furnish documents to prove their own “legal” residence in the DR.
Damián Pie arrived in the Dominican Republic in 2006. He works from dawn to dusk in the construction industry. He sleeps in a building that houses equipment and building materials at the site where he works.
What do these people have in common?
They are all of Haitian descent. Some are sons and daughters of sugarcane workers who arrived in the DR in 1919 to plant and harvest sugarcane. Today they continue to do this. Others arrived only recently and have enriched the construction, tourism, and agribusiness bosses, while they toil for low wages without employment protection or social security benefits. They are super exploited and discriminated against.
Fighting back. In 2007, Roberto Rosario, President of the Federal Electoral Board, denied Dominican citizenship to children born in the DR to Haitian immigrants. Six years later the Constitutional Tribunal, pursuant to Resolution 168-13, ratified this decision retroactively and converted overnight more than 250,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent into “illegal” residents.
Those affected organized rallies in front of the National Palace, the Constitutional Tribunal and the Federal Electoral Board.
Battle lines were drawn. Sugarcane and other Haitian immigrant workers joined the fight to defend their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, and fellow citizens.
The government reacts. In response, President Danilo issued Law 169-14 — the Plan for Migratory Regularization — and launched an aggressive media campaign promoting the “merits” of these anti-immigrant policies. The deadline for the normalization of all immigrants’ legal status was July 17, 2015. Of course, Danila’s plan did not work. Hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent remain “illegal.” Most immigrants are not registered. Sugarcane workers and their families are still stuck in an immigration limbo.
With the breakdown of its plan, the government resorted to threats. “There will be deportations. We have always been clear: those who remain illegal, those who are not eligible, those who did not abide by the Plan for Regularization, those who did not honor Law 169-14 will be processed under the country’s immigration laws,” screamed Fadul, Minister of the Interior and Police.
Meanwhile, thousands of Haitian refugees and their families continue to cross the border with their belongings on their backs while the Martelly government in Haiti looks the other way and leaves them in the cold.
In Haitian barrios and at work sites, the Dominican immigration service conducts raids and jails Haitian residents. They are taken to “Welcome Centers” where, if they cannot prove their legal status, they are immediately deported.
For a revolutionary front of the Island of Hispaniola. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island. More than three centuries ago Spanish and French colonists decided to split it. They distorted history in order to pit both peoples against each other and impede organizing against the colonialist powers.
The Caribbean has long been a center stage for wars of pillage by the great imperialist powers. England, Spain, Holland, Portugal, Italy, France, and the United States have all claimed the right to determine our destiny. Today, these same powers foment racial hatred among our island’s peoples, which facilitates the outright theft of our resources. This is what we face as Dominicans and Haitians.
The governments of both the DR and Haiti have agreed to deepen these racist policies. The Dominican government claims that “Haitians cannot remain in the DR without legal documents” and the Haitian government claims “it does not have the economic resources to prevent migration.” But neither government mentions the semi-colonial character of both nations and imperialism’s pivotal role in our poverty.
There are even Dominican and Haitian intellectuals who encourage hostile and divisive strategies, and pose absurd justifications that we should live in permanent conflict.
Clearly, presidents Medina of the Dominican Republic and Martelly of Haiti have no intention of resolving these border conflicts. Only the workers and oppressed people of both nations can resolve them.
For that reason we need a vehicle for our shared struggle. We in NUPORI propose a Revolutionary Island Front representing the whole island, based on a program of action that benefits the common struggle in both our countries against imperialism and its domestic servants.
We need a workers and popular government through which our peoples on both sides of the island can chart their own futures. This would make it possible to democratically discuss new ways that enable both nations to collaborate, based on solidarity, equality of conditions, and respect for differences.
Hugo Cedeño is a leader of NUPORI (Núcleo por un Partido Obrero Revolucionario Internationalista) in the Dominican Republic. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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