Clarification: An earlier version of this column identified Arielle Dominique of the Haitian Embassy as a contact for information on the planned protest at the Dominican Republic’s New York consulate. In fact, neither Dominique nor the embassy are associated with the demonstration.
A quickly organized, but impressively massive demonstration by Haitian-Americans and their supporters shocked and amazed New Yorkers in 1990. There may be a replay in Times Square this week because of a recent Dominican Republic court ruling to take citizenship from Haitians and others born in that nation.
Protesters — incensed by the ruling and the long-festering outrage over the treatment of D.R.-born Haitians — are scheduled to target the Dominican Republic’s consulate, 1501 Broadway (between 43rd and 44th Sts.) in the heart of midtown Manhattan, on Oct. 17, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., to express their disapproval.
The recent Dominican Republic Constitutional Court decision to deny citizenship to some D.R.-born children, including some offspring of Haitian migrant workers, is the reason behind the anger. Many of the migrants in the nation — which borders Haiti — work under poor conditions in agricultural labor camps.
A UN-backed study released this year estimated that there are nearly 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and roughly another 34,000 born to parents of another nationality.
“Based on what the Dominican government is saying, these people are not Dominican citizens and will have to leave and effectively go to Haiti, where they are also not citizens,” attorney Wade McMullen of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights told the Associated Press.
“It creates an extremely complicated situation.”
According to the AP , the court decision applies to those born after 1929. The D.R.’s Constitutional Court ruling gives the nation’s electoral commission one year to produce a list of persons to be excluded from citizenship.
Dominican Republic Immigration Director Jose Ricardo Taveras, who has long warned of the “Haitianization” of the nation, welcomed the controversial ruling and told the Associated Press, “Far from remaining in limbo like some critics are arguing, (they) will for the first time benefit from a defined status and identity without having to violate the law.”
New York-based, Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat said it was especially “appalling” that the court ruling comes close to the 76th anniversary of the government-sponsored massacre of 20,000 Haitians by the Dominican Republic in October 1937.
Meanwhile, Roxanna Altholz, associate director of the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of California’s Berkeley School of Law, also expressed grave concern about the process, noting the history of racism against Dominican-Haitians and Haitians.
“Are they going to do summary expulsions? Is the Dominican Republic going to conduct raids? I don’t know how they’re going to implement this decision,” she told the AP.
Roberto Rosario, president of the D.R. electoral commission, told the Associated Press that people would be able to gain citizenship and “legalize themselves through the national legalization plan,” but no details have been made public yet.