Conflict has existed between Haiti and the Dominican Republic (DR) for decades. We are currently witnessing these legacies being played out on the world stage thanks to the deportation of undocumented Haitian immigrants from the country. It’s reported that nearly one million Haitians live in DR and only a small percentage of them are legal immigrants. I am of the opinion that non-citizens (Haitian or otherwise) that did not submit applications to establish residency in DR should be deported. All countries have a right to draft and uphold their own immigration laws. However, razor sharp infrastructures and systems must be in place to do this.
The two nations, whom share the island of Hispaniola, also have a shared history of colonialism, oppression, slavery, dictatorship and poverty. A common history would suggest that both nations should be able to move forward with governing and adhering to policies that would support each other’s advancement. This is unfortunately not the case. The island has deep-rooted prejudices around race, language, class and religion that are a direct result of the values and the long-standing feuds between the countries that colonized them, France and Spain.
Today’s immigration problem can be traced back to the ruthless dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his U.S. led assassination in 1961. Aside from killing and torturing his Dominican opponents he took inspiration from another dictator of the time: the racial purist Adolf Hitler. Following the German’s lead, he massacred thousands of Haitians because of their skin color (most notably the Perejil Massacre of the 1930s) and opened up the borders to European Jews in efforts to “whiten” DR. Similarly, Haiti massacred whites in the early 1800’s in order to avenge the decades of slavery Africans endured under French colonialism.
Trujillo’s killing of Haitians was ironic considering he himself was of Haitian descent. The disdain he had for Haitians and dark skin – including his own since he was known to use face powder to appear whiter – continues to impact how we as Dominicans view ourselves and our black roots.