US needs to speak loudly on DR crisis

The international community is speaking out against the Dominican Republic’s reckless immigration crackdown that targets people of Haitian descent. Newspapers, human rights groups and a few key political leaders here in the United States are stepping up their pressure on the DR to adhere to international norms and to back away from wholesale deportations.

But, an important voice has been missing from the dialogue— at least in the public realm: Our federal government has remained silent on the issue of the Dominican Republic’s wrong-headed policy. That posture needs to change.

Behind the scenes, the Reporter has been told, there is communication going on — at the highest levels— between our State Department and the DR government. While these private caution flags may helped to stave off threatened large-scale expulsions, it certainly has not stopped the flow of people — perhaps as many as 31,000 in the last few weeks by some estimates.

The United Nations has also been slow on the uptake. In a statement last Friday during the CARICOM summutr in Barbados, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters, "I strongly believe it is critical for [Haiti and DR] to engage in a frank and constructive dialogue."

The Organization of American States and CARICOM have issued much stronger statements taking the Dominican government to task for their actions. The OAS has dispatched a team to the DR to observe the border activity and check on Haitian claims that many of the deportees are actually Dominicans who are of Haitian descent, not illegal immigrants.

And the CARICOM countries issued a sharp rebuke at their meeting on July 5, voicing “abhorrence and outrage with respect to the treatment of Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.”

Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made it plain: “We cannot condone behaviour that, in our view, enshrines barbarity into the constitutional practices of the Dominican Republic.”

In this context, our own government’s muted response to the mounting crisis is disappointing. Of course, the United States should refrain from injecting itself into the internal politics of other states without carefully weighing the consequences.

But, what is happening along the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti has become a pressing human rights matter and it is one that demands the attention of the hemisphere, if not the world.

It is plainly in the interest of the United States to take a position on the side of decency, humane treatment and law and order. All of these elements are in play in this current impasse. Our government needs to be more assertive in making it clear to the Dominican leadership — and in a public fashion— that our leadership does not condone or accept the mass expulsions of a targeted group of people.

We hope that Secretary Kerry will take concrete action to make it clear that our government is in accord with the CARICOM states and other human rights organizations in condemning the Dominican Republic’s trajectory.