Junot Diaz: "Sentencia" & Stateless Haitians in the Dominican Republic
Denationalization of Haitians and Haitian-Dominican citizens in the Dominican Republic has exposed the hate, apathy, and possible xenophobia within the community. Dominican-American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Diaz recently commented on this, the palpable fear of the Haitian community in Santo Dominigo, and his disgust with the ruling that will leave a number of Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans stateless. Both, Dominican and Haitian commentators have been vocal about the discriminatory practices, but certain Dominicans who stand against the ruling, like Diaz, have received threats due to their opposition.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic, neighboring countries, have an involved history that includes war, enslavement and invasion. Haitians have been on the receiving end of blunt treatment by Dominicans, acting as their maids, their low-wage workers and their choppers in sugar cane fields. Now, Haitian immigrants and their parents, whose history in the country dates between June 1929 and present day, have found that their birth certificates have become invalidated. Ethno-national limbo leaves these individuals unable to access basic services, receive medical attention or acquire jobs. More than 200,000 people will be affected; and 24,000 of the 60,000 birth records reviewed during November will result in the loss of citizenship.
"I don't have a strong opinion on the subject, as I'm not too politically opinionated. I can tell you that I do disagree since they've been there for generations," said a 23-year-old Dominican-national, raised in the United States. "But, I do see the issue of Haitian immigration as a major problem for DR, which doesn't have the resources to support them."
The Dominican high court, which made the decision, were called "racists" by Diaz in a co-authored piece for the Los Angeles Times. His outspokenness drew remarks from government officials and a group of Dominican-nationals, who opted to personally attack the author. Eduardo Gautreau de Windt, Pura Emeterio Rondón, Efraim Castillo, and a number of others wrote a letter that questioned Diaz's Dominican-ness; named his interest in the Dominican Republic as "unnecessary" and "offensive"; and one man even stated that Diaz's "presence in [the Dominican Republic], in this hard moment that we're going through as a collectivity, is a joke." It was also said that Diaz was "fake and overrated pseudo-intellectual" and "should learn better to speak Spanish before coming to this country to talk nonsense." Another Dominican-national leader even threatened to sue Diaz.
The men never voiced why they were in full support of the ruling, however they did voice their rousing support for it, their disdain for Diaz, and their disinterest regarding the United States' involvement in their affairs. Executive Director for the Dominican Presidency's International Commission on Science and Technology José Santana stated, "I've never seen the U.S. Supreme Court revoke a ruling because of international pressure. It's important for us to normalize immigration in this country. What they're looking to do is promote immigration by land to avoid immigration by sea -- because you know where the immigration by sea is headed."
Diaz stated how those who instituted and defend the ruling are not only attempting to denationalize Haitians, but also the critics. He states that the enforcers hide the injustice under "intimidation, silence and the gibberish of its paid supporters" as a distraction, to lure eyes away from the real crime.
"All these attacks are bullsh.. attempts to distract from the real crime -- the sentencia itself which has been condemned widely. All of us who are believers need to keep fighting against the sentencia and what it represents and we need to keep organizing and we need to show those clowns in power in the DR that there is another Dominican tradition --based on social justice and human dignity and a true respect for the awesome contributions that our immigrants make everywhere." -said the "This is How You Lose Her" writer on his Facebook page.
Diaz, not one to take things lying down, used his Facebook to respond to the egregiousness on more than one occasion.
"The best part is how many people are organizing and speaking out against this inhumane judicial act and how well the Diaspora is standing up to elite powers in the Dominican Republic and their ideologues. We in the Diaspora know what it is like to be despised and stigmatized as immigrants, to be victims of unjust laws" Diaz said. "Those of us who are critics of the sentencia are being told "we don't understand," that "we didn't read the sentencia," that we are "traitors," that we "hate the Dominican Republic" and that our supposed "lack of Dominicanidad" disqualifies us from being able to say anything."
Haitians and Haitian-Americans opinions generally fall in line with Diaz's, who, too, believe that the Dominican Republic's decision to railroad its Haitian-Dominican citizens is a conscious act of intolerance and indifference.
"No Haitians or Dominicans I know have discussed this with me. They seem complacent with just being a New Yorker or American, so politics back home are irrelevant to them," said a 25-year-old Haitian-American. "I don't think their ruling is justifiable. As far as I know neither does the [U.S. Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo]. Haitians will probably return to Haiti, but, If I could say anything to the DR government, I would suggest that they accept the fact that Haitians and Dominicans are a family."
Beyond having an involved history, the two countries' histories are fairly intertwined, the young Haitian woman told the Latin Post, then continued to say that Haiti didn't need the United States' help resolving in the matter: "The discrimination of the DR government against Haitians is absurd and laughable if a person knows the history of the Hispaniola Island. Our ancestors come from the same place, and we successfully defeated the French together. I don't see an impending reenactment of Trujillo's regime. But, then again I don't live in Haiti or DR. The United States government should not step in. Their previous involvement with Haiti hasn't been helpful so I can't see them being helpful now."
The young Haitian woman also told the Latin Post that the ruling did come as a surprise to her because she knows a great deal of Haitians and Dominicans who are friends in New York City. She believes that the relations between the two groups are far different than what has been reported to the media.
Latino political and civil rights organizations signed an open letter to DR President Danilo Medina Sanchez last month, asking that he block the court's ruling. The Dominican Republic is expected to state their decision.
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