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#2179: A Dominican crackdown on illegal immigration keeps desperate Haitians out.. (fwd)


Published Sunday, February 6, 2000, in the Miami Herald 

 A Dominican crackdown on illegal immigration keeps desperate
 Haitians out, expels thousands already in ______ BY JUAN O. TAMAYO

 CAYACOA, Dominican Republic -- Jose Luis Yan, a 38-year-old Haitian
sugar-cane cutter, sensed trouble when Dominican troops suddenly began
rounding up and deporting about 10,000 illegal Haitian workers like him.
 His wife and two of their seven children had left to visit relatives in
Haiti just days before the surge in expulsions. Three months later, Yan
 still has not heard from her; the five children at home, he said, ''cry
every night for her to come home.'' But the chances of that happening
are slim. Saying it can no longer afford the burden of the
 500,000 Haitians living illegally in this struggling nation of eight
million people, the Dominican government has cracked down on
 Haitians trying to escape the even worse poverty of their homeland next
door. Another half-million Haitians live here legally. The army has
permanently reinforced the 186-mile border that splits the island of
 Hispaniola, and government-owned sugar mills hired no Haitian migrants
at all this year under an agreement for seasonal cutters that has
 been in effect since 1952. About 2,000 Haitians are being deported each
 month, thousands more have been returning home voluntarily, and many of
the rest live in virtual hiding, avoiding public places such as
 parks and bus stops in hopes of dodging the soldiers' sweeps. ''There
is an atmosphere of fear in the Haitian community now, fear of abuses
because we are defenseless,'' said Sonia Pierre, head of the
 League of Dominican-Haitian Women and daughter of illegal migrants.


 Haitian community leaders say the crackdown could increase illegal
migration to Florida, although most Haitians in the Dominican Republic
are villagers; those who head for U.S. shores tend to come from Haiti's
towns and cities. Efforts to keep Haitians out are unlikely to be
relaxed any time soon as Dominicans approach a presidential election May
16, a time when candidates often stir up the 178-year-old political and
racial animosities between the two neighbors. Graffiti saying ''Enough
of Haitians'' has appeared around Santo Domingo, the capital, and
Haitian community workers say they fear new and perhaps harsher
 roundups as the elections approach. After decades of importing Haitian
workers to bring in the sugar crop at rock-bottom wages -- in Cayacoa,
workers earn $2.50 per ton of cane cut -- Dominicans say they simply
must retake control of their western border. Illegal Haitian migrants
have established ''Little Haiti'' shantytowns in most cities and towns,
taking jobs away from Dominicans and trying to send undocumented
 children -- estimated at 200,000 -- to overcrowded public schools,
Dominicans say. ''This problem was growing to a dimension that was
becoming difficult to handle, and we needed to establish some order
where disorder ruled,'' said Luis Simo,international director for the
ruling Dominican Liberation Party. 


 It was just an average number of Haitians, a Dominican says  Dominican
officials deny the allegations of mass deportations in mid-November.
 ''The total of about 2,000 during that period was about average,'' said
Danilo Diaz, director of the General Migration Bureau.Such deportations,
Diaz added, are no different from U.S. expulsions of illegal
 Mexican workers or the many Dominicans intercepted each year trying to
sneak into the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. But officials
acknowledge that pressures to move against undocumented Haitians
 mounted in recent months as more Haitians arrived seeking jobs in a
booming Dominican economy that grew 8.3 percent last year. Haitians make
up about 80 percent of the construction labor force in the Dominican
Republic and nearly all of the temporary workers hired for the sugar
 and coffee harvests. But the November deportations also may have been
sparked by a scathing report Oct. 30 in which the Organization of
American States said it had found a pattern of human rights abuses of
Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.


 President Leonel Fernandez immediately pronounced himself ''indignant''
over the OAS report, and nationalist groups staged large marches to
protest the ''invasion'' of Haitian workers. By Nov. 7, officials in
Haiti for the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration
(IOM) began receiving reports from the border of a significant jump in
the number of expulsions. A Nov. 22 report of that agency put the
deportations at 10,000 during a two-week period and described them as
chaotic and harsh, with soldiers sometimes forcing truckloads of
Haitians across isolated border roads in the dead of night. ''Many have
reported abuses and bad treatment by soldiers,'' the report said. It
 said others were expelled before they could pick up their belongings,
and ''more than half of the women had been separated from husbands or
children.'' ''If you're dark-skinned, they take you. Even if you have a
visa, if you're dark they take you,'' said Tina Poret, 32, a woman who
cooks for 20 illegal Haitian construction workers in the beach resort of
Juan Dolio. In one sweep, Poret said, soldiers grabbed a woman at a
grocery store and would not let her pick up her 3-year-old daughter from
the Haitian shantytown where she lived. The woman sneaked back 22 days
later but took the child back to Haiti ''because she just didn't want to
take the abuse anymore,'' Poret said.


 Mutual suspicions date back to first half of 19th Century  Many of the
largely mulatto Dominicans have traditionally viewed the predominantly
black Haitians with aversion since Haitian troops occupied the
 eastern half of Hispaniola from 1822 to 1844. Dominican dictator Rafael
Leonidas Trujillo ordered the slaughter of up to 18,000 Haitians in 1937
along the Massacre River, which marks part of the Haitian-Dominican
border, in an attempt to erase what he called the growing ''blackening''
of his nation. Migration soared in the 1980s as Haiti descended into
political and economic chaos, making Haitians the targets of political
controversy. A Gallup poll in 1998 showed that 45 percent of Dominicans
surveyed favored deporting all illegal Haitian workers, and an
additional 17 percent favored repatriating all Haitians -- legal or
illegal. The U.S.-educated Fernandez, who speaks fluent French and
English, has tried to improve relations with Haiti and was the first
Dominican president to visit Port-au-Prince in nearly 70 years.
 But decades of feeble Dominican and Haitian controls along the border
-- compounded by corruption in the agricultural worker program and both
nations' poverty -- long ago turned the migration issue into a nearly
intractable dilemma. For decades, Dominican soldiers would simply drive
trucks through cane cutters' villages at the end of each sugar harvest,
round up a few thousand Haitians who could not produce work permits and
take them to the border. Diaz, the migration bureau director,
acknowledged that the policy also involved ''a narrow band of unofficial
tolerance'' for illegal workers who had been living here for years or
had children born in the Dominican Republic.


 Many illegal Haitian workers have now been here for up to 40 years and
have adopted Spanish versions of their French names, but still lack
Dominican identification documents. Many also lack Haitian passports or
even birth certificates. Jose Luis Yan carries only an agricultural
worker's identification card issued when he first came in 1986, at the
age of 14. Good for only one season's work, it is so yellowed that his
photograph has faded completely. His wife and seven Dominican-born
children have no documents at all, he said. Most of the other 200 or so
Haitians in Cayacoa also have no identification documents, said Vasquel
Martinez, 25, Dominican-born daughter of illegal workers.
 Over the years, many once-illegal Haitians have managed to obtain
Dominican citizenship, often through bribes that today run to about $400
a person.


 But the biggest problem has been with the status of the children born
here to illegal migrants over the decades, estimated by Sonia Pierre at
500,000. About 300,000 received Dominican citizenship under a
constitutional provision that grants citizenship to almost everyone born
here, but 200,000 others remain undocumented, she added. Haitian
children born here could easily obtain citizenship up to about 1980,
said Hipolito Dolis, head of the Committee for the Defense of Haitian
Immigrants. But authorities began denying citizenship applications with
the rising popularity of Jose Francisco Peņa Gomez, a fiery opposition
politician said to be the son of Haitian migrants. Peņa Gomez was
elected mayor of Santo Domingo in 1982, but attacks on his
 ''Haitianness'' dogged his three unsuccessful bids for the presidency
before he died in 1998. Haitian children without Dominican
identification documents cannot be registered for public schools or
health care unless their parents pay bribes or buy fake Dominican ID
cards. ''They are nonpersons, unable to aspire to an education, a doctor
or even a passport,'' Pierre said. Dominican officials insist the
constitutional provision on citizenship for children applies only to
those whose parents were legally in the country at the time of their
 birth, but acknowledge that they and Haiti must bring order to the
migration chaos.


 ''We are in the best disposition to reach a fair solution,'' said
Foreign Minister Eduardo Latorre, whose ministry negotiated a detailed
agreement on future Haitian deportations after Port-au-Prince complained
about the November expulsions. Under the Dec. 3 pact, Haiti agreed to
step up border controls, and Santo Domingo promised to limit
repatriations to established border points and daylight hours, avoid the
separation of parents and children, and ensure that deportees
 can take their personal belongings. But in the long run, Latorre added,
the Dominican government is considering proposing legislation
regularizing the status of the Haitians who have been living here
illegally for years. ''If we want to resolve the problem, we have to
make some adjustments,'' he said. ''Whether that means people who have
been here five, 10 or 15 years, I don't know, but it's something we must