Haitians and Dominicans: Divided Views in NYC

Ángel Gil says that his family lives in the countryside and that his neighbors are Haitian. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Ángel Gil says that his family lives in the countryside and that his neighbors are Haitian. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

On the corner of 181st Street and Broadway in Manhattan, there are as many opinions as there are Dominicans regarding the immigration crisis threatening the Dominican Republic as the “regularization” of Haitian immigrants draws to a close and the country plans massive deportations.

“They have invaded us and we have always given them a hand. I agree to an organized, peaceful and humane deportation,” said 61-year-old César Belliard, who lives in Washington Heights. Although he is of French, Haitian and Martinican descent, he was born in the Dominican Republic.

Belliard says that immigration has gotten out of control. “If we don’t act soon, what is going to be left for the next generation? We cannot allow France and the U.S. to force us to accept these people. Why don’t they open their doors to them?”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Edwin Rosario-Mazara, representing the community organization Ahora/Now – which works in association with Black Lives Matter, whose members campaign against police abuse – says that the law to deport Haitians is being promoted by the PLD, the party of current president Danilo Medina.

“It was proposed by the xenophobic extreme right. They wave the flag of nationalism to distance themselves from the opposition parties, one of which – the PRD – was founded by Francisco Peña Gómez, a Dominican with Haitian roots. Many of the supporters [of the PRD] would be affected because they have no papers; people who have never set foot in Haiti,” said Rosario-Mazara.

Dominican college professor Marino Mejía, 68, feels that the topic hits home. His grandfather was Haitian. “The government should extend their regularization. The delay has to do with the fact that many people of Haitian descent did not receive the necessary documents from Haiti and that the Central Electoral Board selectively denied visas to over 200,000 people who were not in favor of the government to prevent them from voting. Also, there, here and everywhere, immigrants are afraid to go to immigration offices.”

Eduvigis Paulino, 29, a dental assistant born in the town of San Francisco de Macorís, complained that Haitians in the Dominican Republic “are abusive. They rent a house for two or three, and then three times as many people end up living there.” He tones down his opinion by saying that, like in the U.S., many people deserve opportunities and, therefore, assistance. “But only those who don’t have a criminal background.”

Meanwhile, 47-year-old Severino Peña, who works at a bodega, says that the deadline for regularization should be extended. “But we should be more strict; have more control from the beginning, like here [in the U.S.]”

Ángel Gil, 33, says that his family still lives in the countryside between the cities of Moca and Santiago. “Yesterday, I was talking to my aunt, and she was depressed because she could see how sad her lifelong Haitian neighbors were. They do the agriculture jobs that sometimes we don’t want to do. It would be just as unfair if they deported all illegal Dominicans from here, and there are many.”

Rachel Nolan, an NYU doctoral student specializing in Latin American Studies and blogger for The New York Times, condemned the situation in the Dominican Republic via Twitter. In an email to El Diario, Nolan said that regularization was expected to give Haitian immigrants and people who were declared “stateless” in 2013 the chance to be heard and to show who was or could be a Dominican citizen. “But the low numbers of people who got accepted prove that the process was significantly flawed. The regularization process was supposed to stop the deportations, but they continued to happen, according to my Amnesty International sources.”


Because New York has the largest Dominican community and the second largest Haitian community in the U.S., Mayor Bill de Blasio also addressed the crisis. “I am extremely concerned about the potential forced deportation tonight of hundreds of thousands of people from the Dominican Republic, including many children. I call on the Dominican government to respect basic rights guaranteed to all people, including Dominicans of Haitian descent, under international law,” said de Blasio via press release.


Meanwhile, Assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte, the first legislator of Haitian descent in Albany, deemed the deportations a “crime against humanity,” adding: “The Dominican government has stripped hundreds and thousands of people of their citizenship leaving them without any country to call their home. As New Yorkers, we cannot let this injustice to continue.”

City Hall also reacted to the measure. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council members Mathieu Eugene, Antonio Reynoso and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland condemned the attitude of the Caribbean government. “We call upon the Dominican government to review this decision and allow a humane path to citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants of Haitian descent and the Dominican-born children of Haitian descent. It is the humane and right thing to do,” read the joint statement.

In New York, the Haitian community has followed the situation closely. Vania Andre, editor in chief of The Haitian Times and director of communications for the Haitian American Caucus, said that Haitians living in New York often comment on the topic.

“In the eyes of Haitians, we see Dominicans as brothers and sisters. To see such a negative attitude from their government is simply sad,” said Andre. “We know that it is not the Dominican Republic’s responsibility to look after Haitians, but there is a gray area here with the people who were born [in the Dominican Republic].”

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