A brewing situation in the Dominican Republic involving tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants has reached an unfortunate climax. The immigrants, over 90 percent Haitian, face deportation back to Haiti as a deadline to apply for legal status passes today (Jun. 17).
The neighboring countries have been at odds for decades, and was impacted the unfortunate events of the so-called Parsley Massacre of 1937, or El Corte (The Cutting by Dominicans) and Kout Kouto a (The Knife Blow) by Haitians. Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the government-sponsored slaying of Haitians and Dominicans who appeared dark-skinned, especially those persons who could not pronounce perejil, the Spanish word for parsley, correctly.
The Dominican government once again aimed its efforts to remove Haitians from the country, an act some are calling an ethnic cleansing of sorts. The government introduced a plan that would allow a pathway for immigrants to obtain legal status, but outside observers note that the process is not easy for the immigrants to grasp.
“Those who do not have documentation will have to return to their country,” Dominican Foreign Minister Andres Navarro said.
According to the government, more than 200,000 undocumented immigrants living in the Dominican Republic have registered, but at least that many others will not meet the deadline.
The fact that the majority of foreigners — documented or not — living in the Dominican Republic are Haitian has led to accusations that there are other racial prejudices involved, too.
The immigration overhaul comes at the same time that Dominicans of Haitian descent are in a fight over their status. A 2013 court ruling stripped the citizenship of Dominicans whose parents were undocumented immigrants. A separate law to address their status is equally controversial.
According to CNN and other outlets such as the New York Times, workers who are trying to officially apply for legal status are reporting that they’re running into logistical roadblocks and other barriers. Human rights advocates say that many of the immigrants lack the proper identification to apply for legal status, which mirrors some of the immigration struggles here in the States.
While some workers have been given a 45-day extension if they’re already registered for legal status, they still need documentation from their employers and those items have been difficult to come by.
The Dominican government promises that there will be no mass deportation. Instead, the Dominican Republic intends to work with Haitian officials for what the Times is calling an “orderly transfer” of citizens.