Violence erupts on the Dominican-Haitian border

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Is the U.S.’s poor record of immigration reform holding major media outlets back from reporting on the Dominican Republic’s constitutional court decision to strip those born to illegal parents of their citizenship? If so, it shouldn’t.

 

Declaring that it can no longer be business as usual, the Caribbean Community on Tuesday suspended the Dominican Republic’s application to join its regional economic bloc and called on the country’s leaders to urgently “take immediate, credible steps” to stave off a potential humanitarian crisis triggered by a citizenship ruling.

Sept. 23 stripping citizenship from anyone born in the country to parents who were illegal. And it happened despite a last minute assurance by Dominican President Danilo Medina that persons — the majority of them of Haitian descent — affected by the ruling would not be deported.

Caribbean Community (Caricom), said she received word from Medina on Tuesday morning that “the government of the DR will not deport any of the persons affected by the ruling of the constitution court and measures are to be taken to ensure that no one is deported.”

 denounced the measures and presented a Caribbean-wide petition condemning the decision. Among the points made during the discussions: the court ruling violates the Dominican Republic’s international human rights obligations.

“  the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) that the Dominican Republic adapt its immigration laws and practices in accordance with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Haitians have been expelled by Dominican authorities — and many continued to leave voluntarily Monday — after violence broke out in the southwestern Dominican border town of Neiba in response to the fatal stabbing of an elderly couple in an apparent home burglary. Residents later killed a Haitian man, Haitian officials said.

In the midst of our domestic distraction with Obamacare and the destructive and just-ended federal government shutdown, we are in the midst of a global human-rights tragedy endangering hundreds of thousands of individuals but that has gone virtually unnoticed.

The highest court of the Dominican Republic recently decided to ignore hundreds of years of Western constructions of citizenship law, which provides that citizenship is granted to offspring of citizens or to those born in a country. Specifically, the court ruled to deny the Dominican nationality to children of undocumented immigrants, despite the fact that these children were born in the Dominican Republic.

The victims of this unwise decision meet both hallmarks of citizenship — they were born in the Dominican Republic and were born of Dominican parents (albeit of Haitian descent). To add insult to this legally absurd injury, the Dominican court decided to strip the citizenship of generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent dating back to 1929.

This unprecedented ruling could leave stateless and completely vulnerable anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 former Dominican citizens.

This villainous court decision will bring about a huge humanitarian tragedy. The people who will become stateless once the decision is implemented, for the most part, don’t know, nor have they been to, any country other than their native Dominican Republic. They speak only Spanish and have few, if any, family ties in neighboring Haiti.

These largely defenseless victims are condemned to one of four possible fates:

• First, the majority will be deported en masse to Haiti, where they will live as strangers, facing persecution from authorities of a land they are unfamiliar with and further complicating an already unbearable social and economic crisis.

• Second, a tiny portion of them will live in hiding in the Dominican Republic, bouncing from place to place, unable to lead a stable life.

• Third, some of them will be forced to live under the “benevolent” protection of sugar cane plantation owners who will then exploit their labor for a pittance. They will have to accede to sub-human living conditions to avoid being reported to the immigration authorities.

• Finally, there is the real possibility of many of them rightfully seeking political asylum in neighboring countries like the United States, and they will start building makeshift boats, attempting the deadly trek to reach the more clement shores of the Bahamas, Cuba and the United States.

Some may ask why, given our own domestic problems, we should care about the problems in another country; it may be tragic, but it is not our obligation to police the world. Such views miss some basic points.

In this global world, human-rights violations at our doorstep that could lead to the deaths of tens of thousands are in fact our problem and obligation to address. And if this humane and moral stance is not enough, rest assured that this issue will eventually reach our doorsteps, when tens of thousands of victims seek political asylum in our country as well as others throughout the hemisphere. The entire region will have to address the consequences of the Dominican court’s decision.

Finally, the decision by the Dominican court is a microcosm of the immigration debate occurring in our own land. If, in fact, the American public would have supported a self-deportation model that now the Dominicans have imposed, we, too, would be facing massive threats to millions of our residents. Thankfully, we have found such potential injustices unacceptable. We can’t afford to sit quietly by while just off our shores others are engaging in rank persecution.

The international community, the United States and the Haitian government should exercise their combined political and economic power to ensure that this injustice is rolled back.

Ediberto Roman teaches law at Florida International University and is the author of numerous books and articles. Frandley Julien studies law at FIU.http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/22/3705305/haitian-descendants-in-dominican.html

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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — More than 1,400 Dominican military soldiers are patrolling streets alongside police officers after a wave of robberies and assaults that has left the country searching for answers to a rising crime rate.

President Danilo Medina, who took office in August and promised to improve security, last month ordered the military to join the national police in patrolling busy streets and high-crime areas. But the deployment has sparked a debate over what role the military should play and the effectiveness of the country’s massive police force.

“The armed forces is acting in coordination with the national police as part of a larger citizen safety plan as ordered by the president,” said Diego Pesqueira, a police spokesman.

Police said the combined patrols have led to a near immediate drop in street crime just one week after the military was deployed, although Pesqueira said specifics were not available.

Street crime and a rising murder rates have become the No. 1 concern for residents, according to polls.

In the past 20 years, the murder rate has nearly doubled to 25 homicides per 100,000 residents, a rate more than five times higher that of the United States. Robberies and thefts have also increased.

In recent months, motorcycle-riding thieves, working in tandem, have carried out brazen armed attacks at busy intersections, robbing drivers and passengers of the ubiquitous private shared taxis. The crimes prompted the U.S. Embassy to warn citizens and visitors to “exercise extreme caution.”

Citizens and elected officials have called for any means necessary, including using the armed forces, to improve safety.

As a result, camouflaged soldiers, wielding machine guns, are walking the sidewalks of residential neighborhoods, standing by at busy intersections and stationed at a makeshift camp in the middle of a popular public park.

“I’m in favor of having the soldiers here because the criminality is reaching a point where something needs to be done,” said Máximo Jiménez Mella, 47, who added that two family members have been mugged in the past year. “Obviously, the police alone are not enough.”

Historically, the Dominican government, like others in the Caribbean, did not separate the functions of the military and police, said Dominican sociologist Lilian Bobea, who has addressed the subject in two books.

“In the D.R., the major justification for having such a huge military force was the argument of ‘the Haitian threat,’” she said. “But with the dissolution of the army in Haiti, the hypothesis of conflict disappeared, so new threats came: drug trafficking, organized crime and illegal migration.”

Nonetheless, the military has often been called in to assist the police, she said.

“In a country with a history of military predominance and with a defective police force, the attempt to reform the police is jeopardized by the use of the military as a complementary or interchangeable force,” she said. “In other words, it affects the professionalization of the police.”

Dominicans have expressed a deep distrust of the effectiveness of the 35,000-member national police force, which critics say is underpaid and poorly trained.

A 2012 United Nations report found that only 38 percent of citizens feel safe, one of the lowest ratings in the region. And the National Commission on Human Rights last year found that residents complained of police involvement (or the involvement of people dressed as police) in at least 7 percent of the 14,000 reported robberies and attacks.

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