Haiti, DR And What Happens When White Means Right
The deadline has passed for 250,000 migrant Haitian workers to be deported from the Dominican Republic (DR) as sanctioned by the government. Over 2,000 military soldiers have been ordered to patrol the border, and a 45-day grace period has been discussed to allow for those ordered to leave to collect their bearings.
According to Virgilio Rodriguez, the ruling has no effect on anyone ever born in the DR to a legal permanent resident, makes no change to the official policy of the Dominican Republic, and is not retroactive as each case is considered under the constitution in force at the time of birth. It does state that according to all Dominican constitutions since 1929, those born to illegal residents, or to individuals in certain “transient” categories, don’t qualify for Dominican birthright citizenship, unless they were ineligible for the citizenship of their parents. 145 of 194 countries do not award automatic citizenship at birth to those born to illegal residents, and 19 are of unknown policy, leaving only 30 countries confirmed to do so (the United States being one).
Haiti and The Dominican Republic
In the early 19th century, Haiti started out as the more prosperous and populous side of what was known as Hispaniola. It officially defined itself as including the entire “indivisible” island, and promptly invaded the Spanish-speaking side. Years later, shortly after Dominicans became independent from Spain, Haitians invaded again, and went on to rule the Dominican side for over two decades. In 1844, Dominicans fought and won their independence from Haiti. Since then, Haiti has always retained a numerical population advantage, and a much higher population density on the island. Very large numbers of Haitians have, at one point or another, for various reasons, entered and/or remained in the Dominican Republic without legal approval from the Dominican authorities (currently at least over half a million do so).
White Means Right
Ghislaine Leon explains that from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, DR was ruled by Rafael Leonidas Trujillo under whose regime 20,000 Haitians were murdered. The most catastrophic event was the Parsley Massacre of 1937, in which any person who was dark-skinned or “looked” Haitian, who could not pronounce “perejil” (Spanish for Parsley,) was killed. Anyone who opposed or criticized the Trujillo regime was killed, raped, kidnapped and slaughtered. In 1939, he opened the gates for Jewish refugees, Republican exiles from the Spanish Civil war, and the Japanese as part of a plan known as “Blanquismo,” or the lightening of the race. He even went as far as having the dance to Merengue modeled after European Waltz (the dance genre changed a lot since then).
Trujillo worked tirelessly for DR to appear more European from a surface level at the cost of thousands of lives. He also stocked universities and hospitals with light-skinned professionals from abroad which is ironic given that Trujillo himself was born to a Haitian mother. After Trujillo’s death, Joaquin Balaguer, his right hand man, governed DR for three non-consecutive terms, the last of which spanned 10 years, ending in 1996.
Unsurprisingly, the idea of purifying and lightening of a race (here, nationality) is not new. Ask Sammy Sosa. Every year on February 27th, DR celebrate independence from Haiti, yet they never celebrate or even acknowledge the independence from Spain, their colonizers. Seems like white is right is ingrained in Dominican history, but it’s not that simple.
Haiti and DR have cultural differences no doubt, and DR has been one of Haiti’s biggest allies when it has needed support and aid. Haitians have suffered innumerable human rights violations and massive deportations from more or less every country they have tried to immigrate to. DR is a country that has it’s own issues, but they do occupy the same island. Should the DR be expected to solve the problems of its neighbor arguably at the expense of its own people and sovereignty?