Haitian-rights activists rallied in Little Haiti Thursday morning to decry a Dominican Republic court ruling that strips thousands born in the Dominican Republic of their citizenship.
In 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court passed a ruling retroactively denying citizenship to anyone born after 1929 who doesn’t have one parent of Dominican blood.
After public outcry and pressure from the international community, the Dominican Republic passed new legislation allowing people with Dominican birth certificates to regain their citizenship.
People without birth certificates, including thousands born in the Dominican Republic -- mostly children of Haitian migrants -- with no formal paperwork, were supposed to register as foreigners as of Wednesday.
Marleine Bastien of Haitian Women of Miami led the rally in Little Haiti, calling the Dominican process racist and an attempt to “ethnically cleanse” the country of Haitians.
“We are talking about family members who for the most part have been living on the island for years, for decades,” she said.
Bastien says many of the Dominican-born people who are being targeted are second- and third-generation Dominicans with Haitian lineage. She says they have no ties to Haiti and only speak Spanish.
Francesca Menes attended the Little Haiti rally. Her mother is Haitian, and her father is from the Dominican Republic.
She says anti-Haitian sentiment in the Dominican Republic is deeply rooted. In October 1937 some 20,000 Haitians are estimated to have been killed under orders from Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. People who were suspected of being Haitian were ordered to pronounce the Spanish word for parsley, perejil. A person who could not correctly roll the R was concluded to be Haitian and was murdered.
Menes says this latest push to remove Haitians from the Dominican Republic is yet another government-sanctioned move that speaks to the hate Haitians continue to face.
“These are people who have been there for generations, and you’re going to send them to Haiti? To where? They have no roots,” she says. “They have no connection to the other side of the island."
Protesters held up signs that read “Haitian-Dominican are Dominicans” and “Boycott Dominican Republic.”
They chanted, “Black Dominicans are Dominicans! Black Dominican are Dominicans!”
Marcia Olivio, who was born in the Dominican Republic, attended Tuesday's rally. She said Dominicans stateside need to rally with Haitian-rights activists and denounce what is happening in the Dominican Republic.
“This is about people’s dignity, people's right, and this is about hate,” she said. “ It’s a hate crime what the Dominican government is doing in the name of Dominican people.”