Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Haitians in the DR -- trouble brewing again

Haitians "take over Santiago streets"

A former Migration director in Santiago, Sabas Burgos, has warned about the mass migration of Haitians entering Dominican territory illegally at a greater rate since the 12 January earthquake. Burgos told El Nacional that in the past, the authorities used to pretend that they were doing something to curb illegal migration, but now Haitians are entering and leaving freely. He said that the streets, barrios and rural areas of the province are full of undocumented Haitians. "People, even the fruit and vegetable vendors, a local tradition, have been displaced by the Haitians", he complained. He said that in the past six months, Santiago has become another Haiti, with children, teenagers and women begging on street corners, selling merchandise on the streets and accumulating tons of garbage and no one is saying anything.

Santiago Historical Center Traders Association president, Carlos Lora denounced the massive presence of Haitian beggars who harass tourists and affect business in the area.

He complained that despite the fact that Santiago migration authorities are aware of the situation, their response is that deportations were suspended after the earthquake in Haiti.

One migration inspector said that Haitians used to run away if they saw a migration inspector, but now they just scoff at them. An inspector told El Nacional that he has received threats and insults from the Haitians who have been deported in the past and have returned. "One who had been deported three times, threatened to kill me and said that this country was theirs, and all they were doing was recovering it," he said.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Fot the absolute BEST, most insightful look at what is going on (and has been going on for years) in Haiti - spend an hour with Sean Penn on Charlie Rose

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On allowing Haitians preapproved to immigrate

(Boston Globe, July 17, 2010)
Haiti: Expedite visas for family members

Two days after a calamitous earthquake erupted in Haiti in January, President Obama rightly called it “one of those moments that call out for America’s leadership.’’ Since then the United States has done many things to help Haitians, delivering food, medical assistance, and temporary shelter to the island. Sad to say, however, the administration has yet to do one thing that could help significantly: allow the 55,000 Haitians who have already been approved for immigrant visas to join family members here in the United States.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is empowered to grant this relief simply by ordering it, with no act of Congress needed. Congressional quotas created the current backlog of approved visa recipients; children and spouses of legal residents have to wait four years, while siblings of US citizens must wait 11 years. These Haitians approved for entry to the US will come here eventually. If they are enabled to come now, and if they are permitted to work here legally, the money they remit to Haiti will serve as an efficient form of foreign aid, greatly accelerating the island’s economic recovery.

In the past, bureaucratic obstacles have been removed, for humanitarian or national-security reasons, so that refugees from Cuba, Indochina, and Kosovo could enter this country. Haitians are no less deserving.

Obama should instruct Napolitano to allow the 55,000 Haitians approved for visas to come to these shores now, and to expedite decisions on the visa applications of 19,000 other Haitians. This would be the most effective way to take the leadership role America should have in helping Haiti cope with the catastrophe of last winter’s earthquake.

Growing issue of stateless persons

(Miami Herald, July 16, 2010)
After the quake, Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a smoother, but fragile, relationship

Hailed for its aggressive response to the Haiti quake, the Dominican government also has been criticized for denying citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born there.


SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- It wasn't so long ago when the president of the Dominican Republic visited neighboring Haiti, protesters blocked his motorcade by burning tires and hurling rocks.

That was 2005, when Haitian laborers in the Dominican Republic were being lynched, deported, and their shacks burned to the ground. Called a racist and a murderer, President Leonel Fernández canceled scheduled visits to Port-au-Prince and didn't return -- until January, when a massive earthquake toppled parts of the Haitian capital and killed enough people to populate a medium-sized city.

When he showed up by surprise 36 hours after the tremor in a helicopter, he was the first head of state to arrive. Dominican civil defense authorities were already scrambling to send rescue crews, the Department of Health had activated mobile clinics, and the Dominican Red Cross was in place.

Six months after the Jan. 12 quake, everyone agrees that the Dominican Republic stepped up in the critical days immediately following the disaster, when international response was slow and disorganized.

``The Dominican Republic has never responded better to a difficult situation; they responded better than they have to natural disasters in the Dominican Republic,'' said Bridget Wooding, an expert on Dominican-Haitian migration.

The aggressive response came despite bitter tensions between the two nations, fueled by centuries of animosity. And it came just two weeks before a change to the Dominican constitution that denies citizenship to the children of undocumented workers -- virtually all Haitians -- born in the Dominican Republic.

So while Santo Domingo dispatched government civil engineers to fix the electric grid and design roads for Port-au-Prince and invest $40 million in a new university for Haiti, experts say hundreds of thousands of Haitians who were born here decades ago are suddenly stateless.

``It's hypocritical, a complete paradox,'' said Amos Andrada, a journalist of Haitian descent who was refused a national I.D. card recently. ``Leonel Fernández has emerged as the great protector of Haiti. One thing is what he's doing for the state of Haiti and another what he is doing to us, who are Dominicans.''

While the U.S. government's management of the Port-au-Prince airport came under heavy criticism for turning back much-needed aid, the Dominican government launched quick and efficient cargo routes by land and sea. The United Nations in Santo Domingo flew aid and people using some 30 choppers and planes donated by the Dominican businesses.

Although they were not permitted to linger after their surgeries, about 4,000 injured Haitians were treated in Dominican hospitals. Many more were fed and taught in projects launched by the First Lady. One Dominican woman became a celebrity when she left her own babies at home to breast feed Haitian infants in Santo Domingo hospitals.

Bridget Wooding, an expert on Dominican-Haitian migration, was in Port-au-Prince during the quake kicking off the French translation of her book about Haitian migrants: Needed but not Wanted.

``I remember being on the border at 10 p.m. on my way back to Santo Domingo,'' she said, ``and Leonel was personally ringing journalists who work for his foundation to find out whether mobile clinics were operating.''

Haiti's prime minister says relations have not been better in 200 years. But experts worry that the goodwill sown between the two nations in the months since the quake will quickly dissipate, as recovery stalls and more Haitian migrants cross illegally into the Dominican Republic.

While the Dominican Republic is being lauded for its response, the nation -- and its president -- clearly has interests of their own. The Dominican Republic does a half-billion dollars in trade each year with Haiti; plus many Dominicans fear a stampede of quake survivors will descend on the neighbor country. It's also no secret that Fernández enjoys playing the role of regional leader in times of international crisis.

``Sometimes altruism parallels a nation's interest,'' said Florida International University Prof. Eduardo Gamarra, one of Fernández's political advisors. ``It's not that Leonel Fernández woke up on Jan. 12 and realized there was a Haiti. He's been working on this for a long time.''

Gamarra calls the tense relationship over migration issues ``one of the legacies of the past'' and admits that it must be addressed.

Fernández was traveling to Washington this week meeting with President Barack Obama and was unavailable for an interview. Officials at the Department of Interior, the first lady's office and the Foreign Affairs Ministry declined or did not respond to repeated interview requests.

The struggles between Haiti and the Dominican Republic date back hundreds of years, when the island they share was ruled by different colonial powers, the French in the west and the Spanish on the east.

Haitian slaves booted their colonial masters and established their own nation, eventually occupying the entire island. An occupation that was at first welcomed soon soured, and the Dominican Republic to this day celebrates its 1844 independence from Haiti.

In 1937, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the army to slaughter tens of thousands of Haitians. That didn't stop the Dominican Republic from signing contracts with thousands of Haitians to work in sugar cane fields.

By the 1960s, agricultural communities called bateyes were filled by Haitians. They settled and had children.

According to the constitution, the children of people ``in transit'' were not entitled to citizenship. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling backed up a migration law defining anyone who lacked legal residency as ``in transit'' -- regardless of how many decades they had lived in the country.

In January 2010, two weeks after the quake, a new constitution took effect denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

The grown children of Haitian immigrants say the government has applied the new constitution retroactively, denying papers to anyone whose parents did not have legal residency. In Latin America, a recently certified birth certificate is required whenever anyone marries, goes to college, or requests a passport.

``You know what that is that you grow up going to school being told you live in a democracy where there are rights and then they say, `well, actually, starting tomorrow, you are not Dominican, and there is no democracy,' '' said Altagracia Jean Joseph, 24. ``Talk about breaking dreams, hopes and illusions.''

Jean Joseph graduated from high school four years ago and has been unable to register for college or get a formal job. When she tried to register for nursing school, she was turned away.

Siany Jeans Yudel could not apply for a law license. Pedro José Adames could not sign a contract to play baseball. Felipe Siriyan, 27, lost a university scholarship and now works a few days a week in construction.

The issue has been the subject of lawsuits in the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights. One landmark case ruled against the Dominican Republic, saying a migrant cannot be considered in transit for decades and migration status cannot be inherited.

But the cases caused such a backlash here that the laws being disputed as unconstitutional led to the recent permanent changes to the constitution.

``My parents left Haiti in 1957. My daughter is third generation Dominican, and she cannot get the national I.D. card she needs to go to college,'' said María Camilise, who has spent years tackling bureaucratic red tape for her two daughters.

``My youngest is 20 years old and says to me, `Why did I bother going to high school?' It seems the government wants Haitian women to be prostitutes and the men to be delinquents.''

Her daughter Martha Cuba has only been to Haiti once: as a volunteer after the quake.

Dominican authorities say the only people having trouble are a tiny minority whose Haitian parents held fraudulent I.D. cards when their children's births were registered.

Vice Admiral Sigfrido A. Pared Pérez, the director of immigration services, acknowledged that the government's immigration reform plan that would have offered residency to long-time migrants and their children was shelved when it confronted opposition.

``There are no people who are in legal limbo,'' he said. ``They are in waiting.''

He stressed that all deportations were suspended after the quake and migrants were allowed to visit Haiti to check on their families and return.

``No other country in the world did that,'' he said. ``No other country shares a border with the poorest country in the hemisphere.''

Santo Miguel Román, an immigration service attorney who defended the Dominican Republic in the InterAmerican court, said Haitian descendants should go to the Haitian embassy and register as citizens and then apply for a visa.

``They say we are racist,'' Román said. ``This is a country of black people. My grandmother was black.''

He whipped out her photograph from his wallet to prove it.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said immigration will be among the leading points of discussion at the bilateral commission Haitian President René Préval and Fernández restarted two weeks ago.

``We don't want to address the constitutional issues, but we do want to address the case of the Haitians working to consolidate the Dominican economy,'' he said. ``They are working there, they are recognized as working there . . . But they don't want to legalize them for some technical issue. We have to resolve that.''

In the meantime, Jean Joseph, the would-be nursing student, tried to register her birth at the Haitian consulate, 24 years late.

``The guy there said to me, `You think if the Dominican Republic does not recognize you as Dominican, and we have no record of your birth or know who you are, that we will consider you Haitian?'' Jean Joseph said. ``Entire communities are in this situation.''

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thanks to CNN

I am extremely grateful to Anderson Cooper and all the journalists and volunteers who have gone to Haiti in the last six months.

I have not gone. I still weep when I see the pictures, so I question what use I would be.My heart is filled with gratitude for all those "blans" who were strong enough to go there and serve.

From the luxury and safety of my home, I have been able to follow the story perhaps more closely since it is my primary story, my main concern.

So as I watch the 6 month special on CNN, I did want to fill in some gaps in the story.- just some pieces that they may have missed.

First on the closing of the hospials, note that with the arrival of the medical aid for acute care from all over the world, no one thought to pay the Haitian state doctors who were already in place. Health care is not free in Haiti, not state supported. There was one report of two doctors at one state hospital who reported that they had not been paid in over three months and that no patients were coming into the hospital since so much care was being given for free. So now many of those hospitals are closed because the doctors - who probably could have stayed and would have stayed had any NGO or aid group thought to maintain some sort of support for the fragile health system.

And for the other part of the story that so outraged Anderson Cooper on being charged 20% tax on the goods his team was bringing in to help the relief efforts. For the first three months, there was no tax on any relief goods. Now there is. It does seem outrageous. But if you understand that Haiti has long been governed by NGOs -- that NGOs in Haiti operate as independent principalities and have for years. The foreign aid that is given and has been given for years has been funnelled to NGOs rather than the Haitian government, which admittedly, has always held the place in the top ten of "most corrupt" in the world.

Yet as some Haitians will say - what causes the corruption? If the NGOs have the money that the Haitian government may rightly believe should go to support the government, and then the government, which cannot pay its employees, starts charging these and other NGOs, who created the corruption?

The report was that MSF had shipments in trucks held up at the border for months and they had to rent trucks in Haiti for $100,000. That is money that went into the very tenuous economy.

I was a bit dismayed at CNNs coverage of the death of one hydrocephalic child - on the surface because there were no antibiotics - but on a deeper level because there is no hope that she would survive anyway.

People have been dying in Haiti for 204 years for lack of basic water and medical treatment that most of the hemisphere takes for granted.Much of this neglect is due to the isolation that this first Free Black Republic suffered by being a free Black nation next to the slave holding US.Instead of helping our newly independent neighbor,  we supported the reparations which Haiti was required to pay to France.

Last year, before the quake, the Haitian medical school laid off part of the faculty. There are more than 1500 Haitians studying medicine here in the Doninican Republic who might return to serve their country if there were money to pay them

So we - by that I mean the international donors - have starved the Haitin state first since its birth and more overtly since the fall of Duvalier in 1986. Now 70% of the government buildings have collapsed including the one that held the registry for land.

I do appreciate the outrage - any foreigner who has been to Haiti ever has felt the outrage.

But now perhaps there really is hope for the future.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Britian Yearly Meeting

I call upon Friends in Great Britain to open their hearts and minds to the reality of British Petroleum, which has the worst environmental record of any oil company operating in the United States.

I call upon all Quaker and other Religious Orangizations to DIVEST of holdings in BRITISH PETROLEUM

The Petroleum INDUSTRY-- at a conference in 1989, in Newport RI, which I attended-- vowed

after the EXXON VALDEZ

that it would put in place all measures needed to protect us and our nation's envirnoment

from a similar disaster

Let the Federal Government take over the remaining assest of

what is left of BRITISH PETROLEUM

what a disgrace to the FLAG of our MOTHER COUNTRY

you are

hang your heads in shame