What are US Border Patrol Agents Doing in the Dominican Republic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It isn’t exactly the towering 20-foot wall that runs like a scar through significant parts of the US-Mexican borderlands. Imagine instead the sort of metal police barricades you see at protests. These are unevenly lined up like so many crooked teeth on the Dominican Republic’s side of the river that acts as its border with Haiti. Like dazed versions of US Border Patrol agents, the armed Dominican border guards sit at their assigned posts, staring at the opposite shore. There, on Haitian territory, children splash in the water and women wash clothes on rocks.

 

One of those CESFRONT (Specialized Border Security Corps) guards, carrying an assault rifle, is walking six young Haitian men back to the main base in Dajabon, which is painted desert camouflage as if it were in a Middle Eastern war zone.

 

If the scene looks like a five-and-dime version of what happens on the US southern border, that’s because it is. The enforcement model the Dominican Republic uses to police its boundary with Haiti is an import from the United States.

 

CESFRONT itself is, in fact, an outgrowth of a US effort to promote “strong borders” abroad as part of its Global War on Terror. So US Consul-General Michael Schimmel told a group from the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic in the Dominican Republic back in 2008, according to an internal report written by the law students along with the Dominican immigrant solidarity organization Solidaridad Fronteriza. The US military, he added, was training the Dominican border patrol in “professionalism.”

 

Schimmel was explaining an overlooked manifestation of US imperial policy in the post-9/11 era. Militarized borders are becoming ever more common throughout the world, especially in areas of US influence.

 

CESFRONT’s Dajabon commander is Colonel Juan de Jesus Cruz, a stout, Napoleonic figure with a booming voice. Watching the colonel interact with those detained Haitian teenagers was my first brush with how Washington’s “strong borders” abroad policy plays out on the ground. The CESFRONT base in Dajabon is located near the Massacre River that divides the two countries. Its name is a grim reminder of a time in 1937 when Dominican forces slaughtered an estimated 20,000 Haitians in what has been called the “twentieth century’s least-remembered act of genocide.” That act ensured the imposition of a 227-mile boundary between the two countries that share the same island.

 

As rain falls and the sky growls, Cruz points to the drenched young Haitians and says a single word, “ilegales,” his index finger hovering in the air. The word “illegals” doesn’t settle well with one of the teenagers, who glares at the colonel and replies defiantly, “We have come because of hunger.”

 

His claim is corroborated by every report about conditions in Haiti, but the colonel responds, “You have resources there,” with the spirit of a man who relishes a debate.

 

The teenager, who will undoubtedly soon be expelled from the Dominican Republic like so many other Haitians (including, these days, people of Haitian descent born in the country), gives the colonel a withering look. He’s clearly boiling inside. “There’s hunger in Haiti. There’s poverty in Haiti. There is no way the colonel could not see that,” he tells Cruz. “You are right on the border.”

 

This tense, uneasy, and commonplace interaction is one of countless numbers of similar moments spanning continents from Latin America and Africa to the Middle East and Asia.

 

Read more :

http://www.thenation.com/article/177253/wait-what-are-us-border-patrol-agents-doing-dominican-republic

 

Unsafe abortions: Haiti’s abortion crisis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PORT-AU-PRINCE — After one clinic failed to remove the 16-week-old fetus growing inside her, the desperate high school student turned to the “doctor” known to her only as Little Old Father, Ti Le Pè.

 

Standing in her sparse bedroom, the bearded man with a baseball cap first prepared a special bath — a mixture of Haitian moonshine, essential oil and a “special soap.” He then put her in bed, strapped her swollen stomach and disappeared. At 5 the next morning, he returned with a cold, murky herbal concoction.

 

The young woman, who had been secretly hiding her pregnancy, sipped the herbal remedy and waited for her contractions to finally expel the embryo.

 

After three days of vomiting, heavy bleeding and agonizing pain, she stumbled into a maternity hospital. Doctors rushed her into surgery where they stopped the bleeding, and repaired her perforated uterus, botched in the first abortion attempt.

 

“I thought everything would be OK,” said Marie, 20, her voice, like her emaciated body, devoid of strength a month into her two-month hospitalization. “If I knew things would end up like this, I wouldn’t have done it. I nearly died.”

 

Abortion is illegal in Haiti but women and girls are losing their uteruses and their lives as they turn to clandestine, increasingly deadly ways to terminate their pregnancies. These unsafe abortions are leading to a public health crisis in a region with one of the world’s highest rates of unintended pregnancies, experts say.

 

The long hidden crisis has started to emerge publicly as women’s groups, physicians and human rights advocates push for changes in Haiti’s strict ban on interrupting a pregnancy. The push comes as reports of rape and sexual violence increased after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, and as the country’s moribund economy and adolescent pregnancies make taboo practices such as abortion no longer unthinkable.

 

“A woman or girl who has decided she cannot keep a pregnancy will find a way, and will accept the health risks that go with an unsafe abortion,” said Catrin Schulte-Hillen, a reproductive health advisor with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Geneva, Switzerland. “There is a huge gap between the reality and legality of abortion. The price we pay … is the lives of women.”

 

Read more here:

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/11/23/3775363/unsafe-abortions-haitis-hidden.html#storylink=cpy

 

Hundreds deported to Haiti from DR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At least 350 people have been expelled to Haiti from The Dominican Republic, or have fled of their own accord, after an elderly Dominican couple was slain in an apparent burglary near the border between the two countries.

 

A mob retaliated by killing a Haitian man, two migrant advocates said on Sunday.

 

 

The Reverend Antoine Lissaint of Haiti’s Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Organization told The Associated Press on Sunday that a group of Dominicans killed the man because they blamed people of Haitian descent for the fatal stabbing of the couple.

 

Dominican police issued a statement saying Jose Mendez Diaz and Luja Encarnacion Diaz, both 70, were killed during an apparent home burglary in which the killers got away with two sacks of coffee.

 

Detectives found a knife and stick at the scene.

 

There was no comment from the Dominican government.

 

A group of Haitians who had been living in the southwestern Dominican town of Neiba the past several years sought refuge at a police station because they feared further reprisals, Lissaint said.

 

Police handed the group over to soldiers who drove them to the border and expelled them to Haiti on Saturday.

 

Migrant advocates said some of the people sent out of the Dominican Republic were eager to leave because they feared there would be more mob violence.

 

Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a long history of acrimony as neighbours on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

 

Worsening relations

 

But relations between the two have worsened since a Dominican court decision in September threatened to revoke citizenship for residents of the Dominican Republic of Haitian descent.

 

Jean-Baptiste Azolin, deputy coordinator for the Support Group for Repatriates and Refugees, said not all the people who were repatriated were picked up at the police station.

 

“Some of them were caught in the streets, with their children, and were sent to Haiti, like that, without anything,” Azolin said.

 

Workers for the Haitian government’s National Office of Migration greeted the expelled Haitians and others of Haitian descent, many of them mothers with their children, including a 3-day-old boy.

 

They were taken to a shelter north of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where they received food.

 

They were also each given the equivalent of $22 to help them return to their former Haitian towns.

 

The Haitian government objected to the deportation.

 

Salim Succar, an adviser to Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, said in an email: “We have taken certain measures to welcome these people and disapprove of the way this repatriation was done.”

 

Human rights advocates say the Dominican citizenship ruling could disenfranchise more than 200,000 people, many of whom have lived there for years or decades.

 

Why social enterprises can help heal Haiti’s post-earthquake wounds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been nearly four years since the Haiti earthquake and despite the billions of dollars that have been pumped into aid relief projects, the country is still recovering.

 

“Since the earthquake, there has been a lot of short-term aid in Haiti, but creating sustainable and long-term jobs is a different story” explains Rebecca Troxler from 3 Cords, a social enterprise whose workforce includes a number of amputees and members of a local deaf community, who otherwise would likely be unemployed.

 

Back in August, the Haitian finance minister, Wilson Laleau, told a reporter “we need basic jobs for people without skills”, while Georges Sassine, a prominent businessman in the garment industry, said that unskilled factory jobs were “passage obligé” – in other words, a necessary route to better things.

 

A glut of social enterprises, including 3 Cords, seem to disagree with Laleau and Sassine. They are critical of the commitment to low-end jobs and believe that it’s up to socially motivated ventures to develop Haitians’ skills and economic potential.

 

One such enterprise is Industrial Revolution II (IRII), a celebrity-backed venture producing high-end apparel through the creation of jobs that guarantee the minimum wage – a requirement that, according to a report by Better Work, other garment factories in Haiti have previously failed to meet. IRII are committed to providing skills training and donating half of their profits to community and social causes as part of their long-term plan to bring sustainability to the country’s industry.

 

Like IRII, Peanuts4Peanuts (P4P) are supporting high-skilled jobs too, but in peanut-butter factories. They have recently raised over $16,000 through crowdfunding and their plan is that for every jar of peanut butter they produce and sell in the USA, a portion of the profits will go towards supporting children in Haiti.

 

Kendra Wilkins, one half of P4P, who like her co-founder Lizzie Faust has a background in economics, rubbishes any claim that social enterprises operating in Haiti are more interested in self-promotion than altruism. She’s keen to stress that social enterprises can play an active role in bridging the gap between what is currently happening in the country and the public’s lack of knowledge of what more could be done to improve the situation.

 

“Natural disasters only make international news for so long. Once the media loses interest, people don’t necessarily remain as informed,” explains Wilkins. “By aligning both economic and social interests, we can leverage consumer habits to help increase prosperity in Haiti, by providing job creation and stability through sustainable factory employment.”

 

Wilkins adds: “The [continuing growth and] success of social enterprises indicates the desire of consumers to buy socially conscientious products. We can bring positive purpose to a decision that wouldn’t traditionally involve philanthropic considerations.”

 

It’s not just jobs that social enterprises are hoping to create either; it’s a better education system. This in turn could help more Haitians access economic opportunities in the first place. Camara, an Irish social enterprise, are aiming to do their part to improve education through developing learning skills and digital literacy and by supplying thousands of discarded computers to Haiti.

 

“Education is the most powerful weapon with which to beat poverty … without digital literacy, a skill we in the developed world take for granted, job creation and getting a job becomes so much more difficult,” says John Fitzsimons, Camara’s chief executive. “Organisations like [us] are in Haiti for the long run and are not subject to short-termism.”

 

Social enterprises may not solve Haiti’s problems on their own, but what they do seem to offer is transparency and a strong business case for building a sustainable future.

Read more here:

 

http://www.theguardian.com/social-enterprise-network/2013/nov/05/social-enterprises-heal-haitis-wounds

 

Factory opens to help Haiti’s peanut farmers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The nonprofit group of public health pioneer Dr. Paul Farmer and a health care company have teamed up to open a factory to produce a nutritional supplement in the heart of Haiti.

 

The 18,000-square-foot plant in the Caribbean nation’s Central Plateau is making “Nourimanba,” which is used to treat children for severe malnutrition.

 

The main ingredient in Nourimanba is peanuts grown by Haitian farmers.

 

The first shipments produced at the facility have been distributed to clinics run by Farmer’s Boston-based Partners In Health.

 

A pilot program will provide support for about 300 farmers to improve the quality and quantity of the peanut supply. This also seeks to increase farmers’ incomes.

 

Partners In Health and health care company Abbott Laboratories Inc. and its foundation, the Abbott Fund, made the announcement Wednesday.

 

Haitian-descended residents of Dominican Republic stripped of citizenship by high court

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic –  Thousands of Dominican Republic residents have been thrown into limbo by a ruling from the country’s highest court that strips citizenship from anyone born to migrants who entered illegally. The decree affects mainly people of Haitian descent and is likely to worsen already acrimonious relations with neighboring Haiti. Advocacy groups for immigrants expressed anger over the ruling, saying it ignored the rights of those affected and was based on bigotry against predominantly black Haitians.

“This is outrageous,” said Ana Maria Belique, spokeswoman for a nonprofit group that has fought for the rights of children born in the Dominican Republic to migrants, such as herself. “It’s an injustice based on prejudice and xenophobia.”

 

The Constitutional Court’s decision cannot be appealed, and it covers those born since 1929 — a category that overwhelmingly includes Haitians brought in to work on farms and their descendants.

 

David Abraham, a law professor at the University of Miami, said the decision was part of a larger effort to keep Haitians from entering the Dominican Republic and to encourage self-deportation of those already here.

 

He cited the racial differences between the predominantly black Haitians and mixed-race Dominicans as well as Haiti’s plight as one of the world’s poorest countries.

 

“The fear of the Dominican Republic, of being pulled down to the level of Haiti economically and the ‘blackening’ of the country, has been an obsession of Dominican politicians for well over a century,” he said.

 

Spanish-speaking Dominicans and Creole-speaking Haitians share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and have a long history of troubles, including wars and massacres. Relations warmed after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people, but tensions have since resumed.

 

The office of Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe declined to comment about the ruling.

 

Edwin Paraison, a former Haitian Cabinet minister who has been working to improve relations between the two nations, criticized the court and warned that the ruling could hurt Dominicans. “The sentence expresses a rejection of the Haitian diaspora while setting a dangerous precedent that can be reproduced, if appropriate action isn’t taken, against other immigrant communities, including Dominicans, in several countries worldwide,” he said in an email.

 

The Constitutional Court said officials are studying birth certificates of more than 16,000 people and noted that electoral authorities have refused to issue identity documents to 40,000 people of Haitian descent. It gave the electoral commission a year to produce a list of people to be excluded from citizenship.

 

The Economy Ministry recently calculated that about 500,000 people born in Haiti now live in the Dominican Republic, but it gave no estimate for the number of people of Haitian descent living in the country. The Dominican Republic’s total population is a little over 10 million.

 

The debate over citizenship began to escalate in 2007, when electoral authorities refused to issue identity documents or return copies of them to Dominican-born people of Haitian descent. In 2008, several people challenged those decisions in court, including Belique, whose birth certificate was seized by government officials when she tried to enroll in a local university.

 

Until 2010, the Dominican Republic followed the principle of automatically bestowing citizenship to anyone born on its soil. But that year, thegovernment approved a new constitution stating that citizenship will be granted only to those born on its soil to at least one parent of Dominican blood or whose foreign parents are legal residents.

 

Citing that constitution, the court ruled that all Haitian migrants who came to work in Dominican sugarcane fields after 1929 were “in transit,” and thus their children were not automatically entitled to citizenship just because they were born here.

 

Dominican lawyer Cristobal Rodriguez said the court disregarded the principle of law retroactivity by applying the criteria of a new constitution approved in 2010 to people born decades earlier.

 

Rights groups and migrant activists said the decision would force many people underground and deprive them of basic needs and public services.

 

Activists said they would likely seek help from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which in turn might submit the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

 

Jorge Duany, an anthropology professor at Florida International University who has studied the migration of Dominicans in the Caribbean, said the decision comes after countless years of friction between the two countries.

 

“The impact could be truly catastrophic,” he said. “They are stigmatizing an entire Haitian population.”

 

 

 

 

 

US Education Secretary Visits Haiti Classrooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A senior U.S. official visiting Haiti called Tuesday for greater transparency to improve the quality of education in the Caribbean country’s long-struggling classrooms.

 

In an interview with The Associated Press, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he believes that easier access to information can help improve education standards in Haiti by letting people know more about student and teacher enrollment and by letting them track student progress.

 

“One of the many needs here are clear data systems, having transparency, knowing basic things, like how many children we have, how many schools there are, how many teachers we have,” Duncan said. “I think it’s so important that everybody be transparent and honest on the good, the bad and the ugly.”

 

These data networks would also help educators know how many college graduates are staying in Haiti, which has one of the highest rates of brain drain the world, Duncan said.

 

Haitian President Michel Martelly, with whom Duncan met Monday, promised as a candidate to make education free and mandatory. He says a school tuition program financed by wire transfers and international phone calls has put 1.3 million children in school, though there’s been no independent verification to confirm the numbers.

 

On his two-day trip, Duncan visited a school where the children sleep on the streets at night. He also saw a seventh-grade class with more than a hundred students.

 

“Far from ideal conditions,” said Duncan, who came to Haiti at the invitation of Haiti’s education minister, Vanneur Pierre.

 

Duncan’s visit came as the U.S. Agency for International Development announced a $15 million grant to improve literacy rates in Haiti.

 

Most schools in Haiti are in deplorable conditions and attrition rates are high. Only about a half of Haiti’s children are able to attend primary school, and less than a fourth make it to secondary school, according to the U.N. children agency UNICEF.

 

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Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — For generations, people of Haitian descent have been an inextricable part of life here, often looked at with suspicion and dismay, but largely relied on all the same to clean rooms, build things cheaply and provide the backbreaking labor needed on the country’s vast sugar plantations.

 

Now, intensifying a long and furious debate over their place in this society, the nation’s top court has declared that the children of undocumented Haitian migrants — even those born on Dominican soil decades ago — are no longer entitled to citizenship, throwing into doubt the status of tens of thousands of people here who have never known any other national identity.

 

“I am Dominican,” said Ana María Belique, 27, who was born in the Dominican Republic and has never lived anywhere else, but has been unable to register for college or renew her passport because her birth certificate was no longer accepted. “I don’t know Haiti. I don’t have family or friends there. This is my home.”

 

In a broad order that has reverberated across the hemisphere, the court has instructed the authorities here to audit all of the nation’s birth records back to June 1929 to determine who no longer qualifies for citizenship, setting off international alarm.

 

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees warned that the decision “may deprive tens of thousands of people of nationality,” while the regional alliance of Caribbean nations, which the Dominican Republic has sought to join, condemned how masses of people are “being plunged into a constitutional, legal and administrative vacuum.”

 

“It is remarkably sweeping in terms of numbers: over 200,000 made stateless — a staggering figure,” said Laura Bingham, who tracks citizenship issues for the Open Society Justice Initiative. She and other legal experts called it one of the more sweeping rulings denying nationality in recent years.

 

To some extent, the ruling, issued Sept. 23, and the intensity of emotions around it carry echoes of the immigration debate in the United States and other countries, with wide disagreement on how to treat migrant workers and their children.

 

But given the history of the Dominican Republic and Haiti — a sometimes cooperative, often tense and occasionally violent relationship between two nations sharing one island — the decision has brought to the surface a unique set of racial tensions and resentment toward the waves of impoverished Haitian migrants that fill menial jobs on this side of the border.

 

An estimated 200,000 people born in this country have Haitian parents, according to the last census, by far the largest immigrant group here and thus the one most widely affected by the ruling. Haitian immigrants occupy the lowest rungs of society here, and have for generations, living in urban slums or squalid sugar plantation camps where wage abuse remains common, as a United States Department of Labor report found last month.

 

For decades, Haitians, housed in remote shantytowns known as bateys, were brought over on contracts for sugar plantations to cut cane under the blistering sun. Many still labor in the fields, while others work as maids, construction workers and in other low-paying jobs.

 

Many Haitians proudly embrace the slave rebellion that led to Haiti’s founding as a nation. But Dominicans, although they rushed aid to Haiti after its devastating 2010 quake and maintain many cultural and social exchanges, historically have viewed their neighbors with qualms, identifying more with their nation’s Spanish colonial past and, despite their own racially mixed heritage, often deriding anyone with dark skin as “Haitian.”

 

“The Dominican Republic is at a crossroads right now over the question, ‘What does it mean to be Dominican in the 21st century?’ ” said Edward Paulino, a historian at John Jay College who has studied the relationship between the two countries. “It is a country of immigrants, but no other group is like the Haitians, which arrived with the cultural baggage of a history of black pride in a country that chose to identify with the European elite.”

UN human rights official urges compensation for Haiti cholera victims

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A United Nations official on Tuesday made a rare case for compensation for the thousands of Haitians who have died of a cholera outbreak in the Caribbean nation.

 

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay didn’t say who she thought should pay, but activists have demanded the world body provide compensation to the victims of a disease believed brought in by U.N. peacekeepers.

 

 

“I have used my voice both inside the United Nations and outside to call for the right — for an investigation by the United Nations, by the country concerned, and I still stand by the call that victims of — of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation,” Pillay said at an awards ceremony for human rights activists in Geneva.

 

The U.N. maintains it has legal immunity from such compensation claims.

 

Pillay’s remarks, streamed live on the Internet, were a rare admission by a U.N. official about the need to provide compensation following a complaint filed by the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti and the Haiti-based law firm run by Haitian attorney Mario Joseph, one of the finalists at the Geneva ceremony.

 

The complaint came in the aftermath of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that surfaced in 2010 and health officials say has killed more than 8,000 people. Scientific studies have shown that cholera was likely introduced to the country by U.N. troops from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.

 

Pillay said she raised the compensation issue almost a year ago when she was asked a question at a lecture at Oxford University

 

Asked about Pillay’s comments, U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq, said it is not the “United Nations’ practice to discuss in public claims filed against the organization.”

 

Nicole Phillips, lawyer for the Boston-based IJDH, said that Pillay’s “public support for the cholera victims’ claims could be a game changer in their claims against the U.N.”