Dear Kellogg Fellows Community,
As a Kellogg Fellow from class 16, Haitian and U.S citizen, I am reaching out at this time of crisis to share with you what is happening to our Dominican brothers and sisters of Haitian descent and Haitian migrant workers.
As some of you may know, in 2013, the Dominican Republic (DR) Supreme Court ruled to retroactively exclude citizenship to children of Haitian migrants born after 1929, whose births were never registered in the country.
This post is part of a series from Fellows on the Ground in Haiti and the Dominican Republic
After international commotion, the country approved a new law — known as the National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners (PNRE) — allowing people born to undocumented parents to request residency. However, this has been a very unstructured and convoluted process, as most immigration processes are. The Dominican government gave immigrants until mid-June to register with the authorities under the PNRE or face deportation. The repatriation of undocumented Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent began on June 17, 2015 when the National Plan for Dominican Regularization began.
While respectful of the Dominican Government’s sovereignty and need for migrant regulations, I am deeply troubled by the racial, political and economic motivations that have profoundly impacted the lives of the most vulnerable people of Hispaniola in the wake of this recent constitutional revision.
I’ve worked and consulted with the UN Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti (OSE), focusing on policy issues for vulnerable populations, namely, internally displaced populations and, in particular, gender mainstreaming, orphans and vulnerable children and the handicapped. I’ve also been part of a cholera response group and Global Health teaching team at Harvard University—work which has frequently taken me back and forth between the U.S and Haiti. Each time, the situation at the boarder gets more complex and unjust.
I, along with representatives from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will be visiting the Haitian/Dominican border from August 11th-15th for a preliminary assessment of the humanitarian conditions. We’ve chosen to visit the South Eastern part of the border because it appears that it has, to date, received the largest groups of refugees and, yet, the fewest resources. It is generally a very difficult terrain and very remote.
We will be visiting the “welcome centers” (government stations in Haiti that set up to receive the deportees) and will meet with some religious organizations who have a long-standing presence in the area and have set up some local human rights advocacy groups in addition to their ongoing support of migrant workers who use this route to cross the border.
We also plan to meet with a human rights/social service organization, established in the DR by women of Haitian descent, which has been very active in providing free para-legal help to Dominicans of Haitian descent applying for “regularization”. After the 2010 earthquake, the organization set up a community-based social service center on the Haiti side and took in a number of orphaned children who are still in their care.
My goal is to see to what extent we can liaise with local civil authorities to facilitate the procurement of identification documents for the deportees so that they can apply for residency and work authorization in the DR. The objectives are to do a baseline assessment and get a sense of how many people have returned, so far. We hope to get an overview of the demographics, especially to have a sense of the prevalence of children and their needs.
My dear Kellogg fellows and colleagues (known and not yet known): the effects of this issue go beyond politics and the people of the Hispaniola Island. This is a global humanitarian issue, in which we have a voice and place to act. I will continue to share with you what I learn “on the ground”, and invite you to join this conversation and follow me and other Kellogg Fellows in the region. What can we, as a leadership and social justice network, do to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable members of our society?
En todo amar y servir