South Florida Haitians Protest Deportations In Dominican Republic
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
South Florida has one of the largest Haitian populations in the U.S., and over the past few weeks, the Haitian community there has mobilized. They're holding protests and meetings about what's happening on the island of Hispaniola. As Nadege Green of member station WLRN tells us, some members of the community say politicians in the U.S. have been far too quiet on this issue.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Stop deportation. Stop deportation. Stop deportation.
NADEGE GREEN, BYLINE: Marleine Bastien leads a crowd of about 200 people from the Dominican Consulate office in Miami down several blocks to the Haitian Consulate.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Boycott Dominican Republic. Boycott Dominican Republic.
GREEN: They're chanting boycott Dominican Republic. The DR amended its constitution a few years ago to ban birthright citizenship, which means someone is not automatically a citizen of the Dominican Republican if born there. Shortly after, the Supreme Court said that applies to anyone born since 1929. That left hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent suddenly stateless.
The government deadline to apply for legal status was in June. Those who did not apply or were rejected face deportation, which is why local human rights and social justice groups are taking to the streets. Bastien is a well-known Haitian activist, and she says it's not enough to just have community activists denounce this ruling.
MARLEINE BASTIEN: It is really surprising that not more leaders have spoken about this. What's going on in the Dominican Republic is an atrocity.
TOMAS REGALADO: We elected officials should be more upfront and condemn what has been happening in the Dominican Republic.
GREEN: Miami mayor Tomas Regalado says politicians like himself should call out the Dominican Republic for what he calls a drastic measure.
REGALADO: Because what they do to the Haitian community today, they can do it to other communities. And if you were born in the Dominican Republic, you are a Dominican Republican by birth.
GREEN: Regalado wrote a letter to the Dominican Republic's president, Danilo Medina Sanchez, and it, Regalado said the respect for human rights is everyone's duty. Haiti's minister for haitians living abroad, Robert Labrousse, visited Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood recently. He said his government is in talks with the Dominican Republic about the potential deportations.
ROBERT LABROUSSE: Deporting them is not fair, and the whole world knows it.
GREEN: Award-winning Haitian author Edwidge Danticat lives in Miami and has been outspoken about what's happening. She says this issue has resonated in South Florida, home to immigrants from all across the Caribbean and Latin America. She's hopeful that more U.S. officials will speak out against what she says are human rights violations.
EDWIDGE DANTICAT: You know, there's that old saying. First they come for my neighbor, and I was silent. And then they came for my friend. I was silent. And there was nobody to speak for me when they came for me.
GREEN: Meanwhile, Marleine Bastien, the Haitian activist, says the local community is watching how the U.S. responds to what's happening in the Dominican Republic. And with the 2016 presidential election ramping up, they're listening to what the candidates are saying and not saying. For NPR News, I'm Nadege Green in Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.