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#880: Dominican Republic Hard on Haitians (fwd)


Monday November 8 1:49 AM ET  Dominican Republic Hard on Haitians
 By DAN PERRY Associated Press Writer 

 SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) - In a hospital bed in Santo
Domingo, Maria  Gomo lies in quiet contemplation, wondering like
expectant mothers everywhere how to build a  better life for the next
generation.For Gomo, it's very hard. As an undocumented Haitian, she
cannot register her twins - and this, she fears, will condemn them to
ignorance and poverty.I have to get them the papers,'' mumbles the
pretty 21-year-old, slapping her shoulder with a wet towel to soothe the
nerves and relieve the tropical heat. She may not know it - she cannot
read - but this issue dominated front pages here last week. It began
when the Organization of American States urged the Dominican Republic to
change its policy of considering children born to Haitian migrants to be
 illegal residents. The report sparked angry protest and rejection from
political and church leaders here, but none offered solutions to a
 problem too big to ignore. Haitian diplomat Guy Lamothe said as many as
280,000 children born to undocumented Haitians live here illegally. In
all, an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million Haitians live in this country
of 8 million - half or more illegally. This dilemma, born of politics
and poverty, reveals much about human nature. The Haitians, in search of
the dignity of employment, will break laws and endure abuses. The
Dominicans - who themselves experience prejudice as migrants in the
 United States - look down on their more downtrodden neighbors.
 ``They lack a scholarly tradition,'' said hospital spokesman Carlos
Beira, shaking his head at Maria's illiteracy. ``Their culture
 is just to survive.'' Sociologist Isis Duarte said the Dominican
attitude toward the Haitians is rife with contradiction.
 ``The Dominican economy long needed cheap Haitian labor for sugar and
coffee cultivation and now for construction'' because a Haitian works
for as little as $50 a month, a quarter the average wage, Duarte said.
 On the other hand, Dominican society tends to fear and despise them,
because ``our history has been one of conflicts that accentuate the
differences,'' she added. The two countries of 8 million each share the
island of Hispaniola - Creole-speaking Haiti on the overcultivated and
degraded western third, the Spanish-speaking Dominicans on the more
verdant eastern portion. The Haitians fought the world's only successful
slave rebellion and became the first black republic in 1804 - then
invaded and occupied the Spanish colony from 1822 to 1844. Haitian rule
abolished slavery here but was also harsh. This century, Haitians
suffered a string of murderous, incompetent dictatorships, flocking here
for work - sometimes invited, sometimes not. The presence of so many
Haitians - who tend to be of pure African descent and black - has been
unsettling for many in a country dominated by brown-skinned people with
more European blood. ``The Dominicans fear losing their identity to a
lowly 'voodoo' culture,'' said Antonio Pol Emil, head of the
Dominican-Haitian Cultural Center. ``They fear a peaceful invasion of
the blacks. They're black too, but they don't see it - and that's the
bottom line.'' Sometimes there were brutal anti-Haitian campaigns - the
worst being the 1937 slaughter of 20,000 people by dictator Rafael
 Trujillo on the border around the Massacre River. Today, Haitians face
seemingly random repatriations, and the consequences of an illegality
that begins for some at birth. ``I cannot give birth certificates,''
said maternity hospital director Hector Manuel Eusebio. The hospital
produces a nonofficial document that must be handed over to a government
office along with parents' residency papers. Without these a child is
not registered. Gomo said she plans to try to bribe officials for the
coveted papers - she heard it costs $190 - to enable her children to get
 an education. It's much more than her husband makes each month on a
construction site. Cases where the proper papers cannot be obtained
become the problem of immigration chief Danilo Diaz. ``Every country has
rules,'' he said. ``These people came in illegally. By law, they have no
rights in the Dominican Republic.'' Diaz estimated up to 1,500 are
repatriated monthly but said no statistics were kept.
 Pierre Luis, 28, was repatriated - but not before he'd saved up enough
money to bribe his way back. Now he's part of a Haitian crew digging
ditches for a new elevated highway. The crew sometimes sleeps on the
site, he said, and they don't always get paid in full. ``I have no
rights. They could shoot me in the street,'' he said with resignation.
``My dream is to find a job in Haiti and support a family. If I could do
that, I would not stay here. I would not tolerate the insults.''