The government and mass media of the Dominican Republic has been promoting a racist hysteria against Haitians for months, and this campaign has already led to deadly consequences. In late November, after the murder of an elderly Dominican couple near the Haitian border, a mob attacked and brutally murdered in broad daylight a Haitian migrant. Within the next few days, well over 300 Haitians were deported, while untold numbers are reportedly fleeing over the border or in boats for fear of their lives. The Dominican government misleadingly calls such departures “voluntary.”
People around the world, including progressives in the Dominican diaspora, have condemned the racist campaign and mobilized to show solidarity with people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic. On Nov. 16, teachers and students from the Dominican Institute of the City College of New York staged a march from 203th St. to 42nd St. in New York City. The march was called to oppose the 168-13 ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic, which eliminates Dominican citizenship for anyone born in the country whose parents were undocumented at the time of their registration of birth. They were joined by community members, students and Haitian activists carrying signs, placards, tambourines, cow bells, pots, and sticks. Protestors shouted “eso no se hace” (“you don‘t do that”), in reference to the ruling.
The citizenship ruling was applied retroactively to the year 1929, throwing into question the legal status of generations of people born in the country, and could make legally stateless as many as 300,000 people. The change applies to migrants from all countries but is widely understood to be directly targeting its people from its next-door neighbor, Haiti. Haitians make up the country’s largest immigrant population, occupy the lowest rungs of the economy and face constant racist abuse. Without citizenship, one cannot access work permits, subsidized health insurance and lower-cost university tuitions.
The Commissioner of Human Rights for the United Nations has urged “the Dominican Government to take all necessary measures to ensure that Dominican citizens of Haitian origin are not deprived of their right to nationality in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations.” But Dominican protesters in New York City called such statements empty phrases and had no confidence that the Dominican government, considering its own record, would reverse course.
Marching down Broadway, students shouted, “Dominican, Haitian, we are all one family.” As it passed through the mostly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, the response from people in bodegas, bakery shops, barber shops, and on the streets was overwhelmingly positive. The march received spontaneous applause at several points. One protester told Liberation, “Who would be against what we are doing? We are fighting against racism, and for our brothers and sisters who are just as Dominican as I am.”
Reflecting a history of colonialism and imperialism
The 168-13 ruling was a legal reflection of the racism that has long been a major aspect of Dominican culture, dating back to the era of colonialism. Over centuries, the country’s ruling class identified closely with their European and U.S. sponsors, denied the country’s African and Haitian heritage and discriminated against dark-skinned people to the point that “Haitiano” is still used as a popular slur.
Former U.S.-backed dictator Rafael Trujillo carried out mass killings of Haitians, and personally whitened his own skin. While the country’s leaders speak frequently about “democratization,” this unrelenting racism against Haitian people, as well as the continued war on leftists and labor leaders, shows how little the Dominican state has changed.
Today what is being carried out in the Dominican Republic has clear similarities with the fascistic “show me your papers” laws recently passed in several U.S. states. Anti-immigrant legislators have been encouraged by the record level of deportations maintained by the Obama administration and by the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld key aspects of Arizona’s racist SB1070. The same Supreme Court later struck down the Voting Rights Act and has set the stage for the near-complete elimination of affirmative action.
Across the globe, the capitalist economic crisis has emboldened far-right and fascistic political forces that scapegoat immigrants for social problems like unemployment, crime and budgetary crises. As capitalist governments have been imposing devastating cutbacks to education, health care, and social services, they have stirred up all sorts of racist and chauvinist sentiments to direct anger towards the most vulnerable sectors of society that they claim are “weakening” the nation.
It is the task of socialists in every country to expose these lies, militantly confront racism and promote international working-class unity. Down with Ruling 168-13! Smash racism from the United States to the Dominican Republic and worldwide