I am a congressman from the Dominican Republic who for nearly two decades has given priority to the dramatic situation that affects Haiti and its projection towards the entire Caribbean region. I am addressing you in hopes of expressing some concerns and reflections in regards to a letter that a group of distinguished U.S. Congress Representatives sent President Danilo Medina on October 29th.
In this missive, US legislators that represented districts with voters of Caribbean descent, expressed harsh, unjust and unfounded critiques towards the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling 168-13. Said ruling, orders the putting into effect of an alien regularization plan as stipulated by the 2004 Immigration law. This letter warned that the aforementioned ruling “could result in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, threatening the Caribbean region’s stability”, and was bold enough to ask the Dominican executive power to revoke it. Later, many influential media outlets requested the Dominican Republic be punished with economic sanctions along with the reversal of this ruling.
I must confess that I too am concerned with the possible surge of dangerous situations of inconceivable repercussions, albeit not precisely as a consequence of ruling 168-13. There are other factors that could serve as catalysts for a serious crisis, that perhaps due to ignorance were unfortunately omitted in that missive. These unmentioned variables are vital for a correct understanding of the current situation between the two neighboring nations of the island of Santo Domingo whose demographic density is already at about 230 inhabitants per square kilometer.
It is important to remember that Haiti has been on the United Nation’s Security Council agenda for over twenty years and has been subject to three international interventions based on “humanitarian motives” or “in the defense of democracy and human rights”.
The great majority of Dominicans- to which I belong- has considerable apprehensions over the real motives of these international interventions, which have resulted in an accusatory balance. Legitimately we ask ourselves: Has Haiti gotten better? Has the reconstruction of its national bases been seriously considered , bases that were destroyed long before that earthquake of 2010? Are there serious reasons to believe that it will have a different future than what has been a history of instability and destructive violence?
Believe me when I say that no other people have more interest or more to gain from Haiti arriving at its desired goals of stability, prosperity and safety than the Dominican people.
Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that supports that these international interventions, largely led by the United States have had other priorities. It has had its focus on a) keeping public order at a minimum, precariously appointing authorities with vestiges of democratic legitimacy with little or scarce effectiveness in transforming the extreme realities of Haiti; b) Avoiding at all costs that seafaring immigration outlets be generated – such as the 1991 and 1993 voyages towards the United States and English, French and other Caribbean territories, and c) The progressive conditioning of getting the Dominican Republic to become Haiti’s axis state, so that it becomes, as a matter of fact, a buffer zone to Haitian immigration flows, as Haitians establish themselves permanently in the Dominican Republic.
There is no denying that the weaknesses and corrupt practices in our institutions, the lags in some areas of our economy and specially our dependence on our international relations with the United States and the European Union, have facilitated the implanting of this pernicious relationship scheme, and therefore, the existence of a “Dominican solution to Haiti’s problems” may have been erroneously perceived by powerful international interests groups.
It is also true that there exists a complacent faction that responds solely to its own interests and not to those of the nation, a faction that powerful political groups within the United States government knows to well, and is always willing to tune into the interests of influential lobbyists who for years now have been working on implementing such an absurd relationship scheme between the two countries.
It is also true that the adverse effects of these immigration flows are affecting the Dominican Republic in many ways, especially in the functioning of its policies and institutions. Over a decade ago, the World Bank warned that “this uncontrolled immigration forbids the Dominican poor population from benefiting from the economic growth of their own country, as their job posts and salaries are under pressure because of poor immigrants” and at the same time pointed out that anomalous immigration flows “reduced the incentives to modernize and invest in technology”.
It should suffice to read the 2005 Foundation for Environmental Security and Sustainability (FESS) report on Haiti’s degrading natural resources and the expulsion of its population towards the eastern part of the island and its fragile ecosystems, to realize the destabilizing potential and harsh conflicts that the entire region is faced with. In this context of crisis, I must warn you as a Representative of a nation that is both a friend and an ally, what a grave mistake the United States would incur if based on a media campaign of lies and misinformation joins forces with the Haitian diaspora and pressuring sectors, who alongside some American legislators continue to advocate towards the rejection of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal’s legitimate decision.
Those of us who have followed this harsh controversy for the past twenty years have clearly understood the following: there is a deliberate effort to confuse statelessness with lack of documentation or irregular or fraudulent documentation. It is also false that the 2010 Constitution established different norms or criteria than those valid since 1929 on the obtaining of citizenship via jus soli.
The issue that is trying to be kept from the public eye is that Haitian authorities aren’t able to or won’t document their citizens as is their responsibility and won’t abide by the Washington Agreement of 1938 and its Modus Operandi, which is, to this date, the only binding agreement between both countries in regards to the before mentioned subject. With such actions, Haiti assumes the irresponsible position of he who believes is owed everything and has nothing to lose.
Efforts have been made to keep the Dominican Congress’ 2004 decision to regularize foreigners under wraps. Said plan would not only benefit the majority of those who are illegally settled in Dominican territory, and yet it has been met with significant resistance on behalf of both internal and external actors considerably supported by influential political groups within the United States government as well as by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights.
The Dominican state and its institutions are conscious of their responsibilities. There is a group of people, descendants of foreigners in situations of transit or illegality, raised or educated in the country and without major ties to their parent’s homeland, who, because of failures in our civil registries, have been wrongfully documented as Dominicans. There exists an explicit agreement that they, within the regularization plan, shall be benefited with a special naturalization law that establishes expedited low cost processes. Why would anyone want to block this public policy option? Why continue to stall an immigration regulatory plan that will also help improve both national and international security?
Distinguished congressmen, is it just and moral to defend the rights of individuals while crushing the rights of nations especially when the latter are vulnerable and dependent? What good are international agreements that state that the determination of the definition of citizenship is solely the competence of sovereign states?
Is it wise or even rational to pretend to solve the crisis of a failed state as argued by Haiti to the international community at the expense of its neighboring country? Wouldn’t it be a great iniquity to try and facilitate by such means that the nations with the greater means and who should be aiding Haiti at arriving at a better destiny to minimize and avoid their responsibilities? Has the failure of aiding Haiti been so large that one is to consider there is nothing left to do for it? Can we be adamant to the influence of drug cartels that endanger insular and regional security, regardless of the presence of international forces?
How should we qualify the tendency to stigmatize the nation that has been the most cooperative with the international community in the handling of the Haitian nation, with systemic disqualifications while accusing it of crimes against humanity?
If in the United States and other nations around the world some powerful elites feel they have a historic debt to Haiti, situation with which most Dominicans agree, it should be settled in a different manner and never at the expense of an open and welcoming nation, that has been known to grow which integrating and incorporating every migrant group, from the Jewish -that the world closed its doors on- to the Haitian. From the Caribbean islands that surround us to the far and middle east; from the European -in times of world conflict- to the southamerican that flee violence and political conflicts.
Those that promote these senseless actions against the Dominican Republic, actions contrary to historical facts and unrecognizing of cultural identities, are not aware that in this manner they not only provoke conflicting situations that will surely and largely affect the security of a region that is already convulsed and loaded with grave contradictions. A region in which drug-trafficking and organized crime already have an ominous incidence in national matters.
To conclude this letter, I would like to reminisce on an enlightening episode in the history of our two nations that has always marked a contrast with the painful interventions that we have suffered, and that in turn have been partly the motivation of my writing this letter. I am writing in the hopes that faced with this massive trespass against the Dominican Republic, voices of justice, reason and prudence are heard in its defense, from within the United States Congress.
I’m referring to the extraordinary struggle lead by senator Charles Summer as he tried to detain the efforts of unification of the Dominican Republic to the United States at the hands of president Buenaventura Baez and his subjects and enthusiastically supported by President Ulysses S. Grant. Although there exist notable differences between this historic episode and the aforementioned, most peace-loving Dominicans hope that as has happened in the past, situations of discord be avoided and that the precious and ample community of interests forged throughout history because of geopolitical interests and the cordial and fluid friendship of our peoples be kept untouched.