Sunday, December 15, 2013

Amnesty for illegal residents of the Dominican Republic

This was my post this morning to the Corbett List - the Haitian English list serv - in response to a poster....

M. St Louis - you may prefer to simply dismiss me as a "Dominican apologist" rather than 
address any of the issues in my posts. Just as many prefer to rail against the Tribunal 
Court decision and the rights of a sovereign country to determine its own citizenship requirements.
That is your prerogative.  And I am just as reviled on the Dominican forums for being a Haitian 
apologist. So perhaps that means that I am doing something right.

 For the record, I have been a freelance journalist here, focused, in part on Haitian issues. and the leading voice on on Haiti. I make an effort to see both sides of the story. 

The recent decision has nothing to do with the current administration of Haiti,, nor with trade but with the ongoing cases against the DR in the InterAmerican Court and the revision of their constitution from jus solis to jus sanguinis. So do not blame Martelly. It is the massive influx of Haitian immigrants which has pushed this issue.

Of course, none of the trade issues helped - certainly not the way that Haiti conducted itself over the chicken and egg boycott - based on erroneous information. But the issue of illegal immigration and the children of illegal immigrants in the DR is long standing.

Many have read the TC decision. Many have commented. Few have reported that the census of the 
cedulas has been done and about 54,000 have found to be questionable. Among these were Americans
French, Germans, and Chinese, and  13,000, were Haitian.

The President has announced a plan for the regularization of all those foreigners who are in the country illegally. This has received almost no coverage except to say that it is complicated. Yes, it is. There are categories for those who entered legally, for those who entered illegally, for those who were born here. All have different requirements to obtain their papers. Here is the decree

Those who were born here are to be given special assistance. 

The Haitian consulates here - for the very first time - are now issuing birth certificates. Not in Santo Domingo but at least in Santiago, Higuey, and Dajabon, so that those who are here without any papers whatsoever can at least start the process.

This is an amnesty on all illegal foreigners- for those who entered illegally and those whose parents never had proper papers (who themselves were deemed "in transit" as was defended by the Dominican government in InterAmerican Court as far back as 2004). This is an opportunity for all Haitians now in the Dominican Republic to regularize their status here, if they meet certain criteria.It also applies to the many foreign tourists who entered legally but overstayed their 30 day visa.

Now it will be up to you, you Haitians of education, to decode the citizenship requirements for the Dominican Republic. I, for one, am simply tired of hearing rerun of the Parsley Massacre of 1937 while 435,000 Haitians lose an opportunity to get papers here and send home remittances.  

As far as I have seen, all that the Haitian diaspora.. and the NGOs here (and the international press, really) have done is to decry the decision as racist and xenophobic. 

Basta Ya. 

Haitians are the only ones here who are allowed work visas from the Dominican Republic for $300 a year. 
For this, they must return to Port au Prince every year and have it renewed. This makes them permanently in transit.  Fair?

To work here, other foreigners must go through a far more lengthy process, with apostilled birth certificates costing $300, apostilled police records costing the same, a Dominican guarantor, proof of income or financial stability, and medical checks. This gives temporary residence which must be renewed in two years, with fees attached mounting to $500. Then comes permanent residency which must be renewed every ten years, with fees attached. 

Haitians who are here are free to go through the same process and get their cedulas, if they are able.

The recent census reported that there are about 450,000 Haitians here. I doubt that many of them are legal - in that they have Haitian passports and Dominican visas.or registered cedulas as foreigners. 

They will now have 15 months, til Feb 2015, to regularize their status. They will have to show that they have links to the Dominican society - that they studied here, or a lease on an apartment, or have employment here, or have a child, or live with a Dominican,  or a bank account, or furniture, or a combination of the above. 

The ruling is complicated because it gives a lot of options -- don't have this? Ok,, how about a letter from the Neighborhood Association? A letter from the Church?  They have to show that they are literate in Spanish. (OK.. this is going to be hard since a lot of them may not be literate in any language).  

I have not yet heard reports on how it is going since only the sugar companies and some of the resorts in Punta Cana have complied - registering about 900 Haitians and other foreigners. No mention in the press about how these companies had been in defiance of the law up to now but merely a brazen admission that these people "would now be paid more".  It is illegal here in the Dominican Republic to hire undocumented workers but it is known that even the government does it.

I will be interested to learn, as I intend to do shortly, if any of the groups that are working with the Haitian diaspora here are intending to help them get their papers. Or whether, as I sadly suspect, the plan is to spend the next 15 months reliving the Parsley Massacre. 

As far as I can see, the literate Haitian diaspora has done nothing to help the Haitians here. I have seen only protest marches and petitions to overturn a Supreme Court ruling, accusations of racism, and exaggerations. As in for example, one or two pieces about "forced" migrations from the incident in Neyba, which was one of mob violence from which 200 Haitians sought police protection and an escort from the border. One hopes that this scene is not repeated in other border regions.

It would be useful to see a summary translation of the decree start coming out on FaceBook in Kreyole. There is a large and literate Haitian population here- university students, for example- who could do much to assist those who are not so fortunate, if they were encouraged to do so. It would be such a welcome change to see Haitians helping the Haitians here take advantage of this opportunity, instead of simply accusing the Dominican Republic of xenophobia and racism. 

What I fear is that that population here - the educated Haitians, the University students, for example, who may in fact be eligible for permanent papers here under this amnesty, will do nothing, as the leaders are simply decrying the court decision. Many of the leaders are in NGOs who get funding for decrying, after all. And instead of helping the construction workers, for instance, they will just continue their studies. Then the window will close.  And deportations will start in earnest.  

And whose fault will that be?




Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I am a little confused by some of what you say. I am the director of a non-profit that largely works with the Haitian population in Puerto Plata. One man invovled with our work applied for his residency months before the new law was passed and never received it, nor his money back. So I think there are more barriers than just going through the process and having the money. I also understand what you say about literate Haitians helping Haitians, but I wonder in what way you mean exactly, because most Haitians who are educated still really struggle to pay bills, so as far as helping others financially to get their documents, I think that is still very difficult. Or did you mean as far as helping them get the correct documents? It is hard for one to get a clear answer as to what the rules are, but I do plan on visiting the Immigration office this week to find out more. Thanks and take care.

Babette said...

Yes, The Junto Electoral had had a practice for the last few years of merely denying papers -- or renewals to any Haitians here. That was said to Edwin Paraison, who used to be the minister of the diaspora here. And they were running their office as a private business, that was said by Danilo. So no wonder he did not get his money back.

I understand that it is hard for the Haitians who are here to just keep up - but they are here because it is easier than being in Haiti. This is an opportunity for them. If they do not get legal - then the DR will be within its rights to deport them after that.

I hope to see some information packets coming out in Kreyole or Spanish from some NGOS which will help make the criteria clear.\