Dominican-Haitian Crisis Spills into New York Politics

Dominican consul Eduardo Selman (R.) with the Dominican ambassador to the UN, Frank Cortorreal. (Photo by Gerardo Romo for El Diario)

Dominican consul Eduardo Selman (r) with the Dominican ambassador to the U.N., Frank Cortorreal. (Photo by Gerardo Romo for El Diario)

Following the lead of the Dominican ambassador in Washington, representatives of the Dominican government in New York City demanded a public apology from Mayor Bill de Blasio on June 23, calling on him to retract his remarks about the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners.

In a conference last Sunday at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center, de Blasio dubbed the Caribbean country’s immigration policy illegal, immoral and racist.

“This is a grievance to the Dominican Republican. It is absolutely impertinent and irresponsible,” said Dominican consul Eduardo Selman about the mayor’s statements, adding that they were misguided, disrespectful and unfortunate.

In response to the consul, a spokesperson for the mayor insisted yesterday that: “At no point on Sunday did the mayor call for a boycott of the Dominican Republic. He clearly expressed worry for the delicate human rights situation against immigrants, and specifically Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. He was calling for the defense of fundamental human rights, and he opposes government policies adverse to those rights. He is not against the Dominican economy or people.”

“Contrary to what the mayor thinks, in view of his evident disinformation, we are not an anti-immigrant country. For decades we have hosted thousands of Haiti natives in our territory,” said the Dominican diplomat. “Our government showed its solidarity with this sister nation in such catastrophes as Hurricane Jeanne (2004) and the atrocious earthquake in early 2010.”

Selman, accompanied by the Dominican ambassador to the U.N., Frank Cortorreal, made a call to local Dominican leaders to denounce de Blasio’s words.

But not everyone agrees with the Dominican authorities. “A nation that has immigrants without legal status in countries like the United States and Spain does not have the moral authority to expel their Haitian brothers,” said Dominican activist, writer and artist Diógenes Abreu. “It’s an abhorrent policy.”

Abreu pointed out that, while the Dominican Republic asks of Puerto Rico humane treatment for its immigrants, it denies it to the descendants of Haitians. Up until May, the Puerto Rican authorities had arrested 97 undocumented Dominicans, of a total of 381 immigrants intercepted in the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, Mathieu Eugene, the first Haitian council member elected in New York City, led on Wednesday a protest at the steps of City Hall, and announced a petition for the Dominican government to stop its immigration policies.

“Those men, women and children were born and raised in the Dominican Republic. This discriminatory policy is forcing them to give up their lives in sending them to a country they do not know,” said Eugene. “They are deporting them from their own country only because of their Haitian heritage. It’s atrocious.”

Eugene called on New Yorkers to sign a petition on the site to stop the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners.

“The decision (…) to start deporting a large number of residents born abroad is a stain on the nation and an insult to civil rights everywhere,” said, on his part, council member of Dominican heritage Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn), who participated in the protest with other council members.

In view of the tension in New York brought by the Haitian crisis, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat convened Dominican elected officials and officers – including representatives at the OAS, UN, embassy and consulates – to a summit of the Dominican-American leadership in government and politics this Saturday, June 27.

“We believe that it is the duty of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, two sovereign nations and two brotherly peoples, to resolve any social and humane situation that affects its children, at the dialogue table and with mutual respect,” said Espaillat in a statement.

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