That was 2005, when Haitian laborers in the
and didn’t return — until January, when a massive earthquake toppled
parts of the Haitian capital and killed enough people to populate a
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
More than six months after the
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
“It’s hypocritical, a complete paradox,” said
While the U.S. government’s management of the
came under heavy criticism for turning back much-needed aid, the
Dominican government launched quick and efficient cargo routes by land
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
Wooding was in
“I remember being on the border at
she said, “and Leonel was personally ringing journalists who work for
his foundation to find out whether mobile clinics were operating.”
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
plus many Dominicans fear a stampede of quake survivors will descend on
the neighbor country. It’s also no secret that Fernandez enjoys playing
the role of regional leader in times of international crisis.
“Sometimes altruism parallels a nation’s interest,” said
Gamarra calls the tense relationship over migration
issues “one of the legacies of the past” and admits that it must be
Fernandez was unavailable for an interview. Officials at the
The struggles between
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
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
In 1937, Dominican dictator
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
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.
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
“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
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.
university scholarship and now works a few days a week in construction.
The issue has been the subject of lawsuits in the
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
in 1957. My daughter is third generation Dominican, and she cannot get
the national I.D. card she needs to go to college,” said Maria
Camilise, who has spent years tackling bureaucratic red tape for her
“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.”
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 Perez, 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
“No other country in the world did that,” he said.
“No other country shares a border with the poorest country in the
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,” Roman 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
“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,
“The guy there said to me, ‘You think if the
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?’ ”
(c) 2010, The Miami Herald.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.