Dominican Attitudes toward Haitian Immigrants Following the 2010 Earthquake and before the 2013 Sentencing

By Guilamo, Daly | The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online), October 2018 | Go to article overview

Dominican Attitudes toward Haitian Immigrants Following the 2010 Earthquake and before the 2013 Sentencing


Guilamo, Daly, The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)


The Dominican Republic and Haiti are two Caribbean countries that share the same island, Hispaniola. By virtue of their geographical proximity, among other factors, both countries' historical and present interrelationship is ridden with friction. Predominating scholarship pinpoints the friction on the Dominican rejection of Haitian migration into the Dominican Republic, both at the governmental and the mass level. As of present, both the Dominican Republic and the United States are experiencing an ultranationalist conservative wave of nativist policies that has much of its citizenry split between those abhorred and others in full support.

This article addresses the extent to which Dominican ultranationalists' hardcore antiHaitian ideological posture resonates with everyday Dominicans in light of the earthquake's effects, from 2010-2012. Emanating from a larger body of work this article shows the responses from a survey conducted on a sample of 75 Dominicans embracing and rejecting Dominican ultranationalists' anti-Haitian attitudes (Guilamo, 144). Ernesto Sagás defines anti-Haitianism as a combination of "a legacy of racist Spanish colonial mentality, nineteenth-century racial theories, and twentieth-century neoracism into a web of anti-Haitian attitudes, racial stereotypes, and historical distortions" (Sagas, ix). It is the aim of this article to bring balance to the highly skewed scholarly discourse surrounding Dominican attitudes towards Haitian immigrants by highlighting the results of a survey conducted a few months after the earthquake within the timespan of 2010-2012. The article's ultimate objective is not to deny or dismiss the existence and persistence of anti-Haitianism in Dominican society, but to present a more nuanced picture of Dominicans' attitudes towards Haitian immigrants.

The 10 January of 2010 earthquake destroyed Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, killing thousands of Haitians. Many Haitians, in turn, sought refuge in the Dominican side of the island, further increasing the Haitian migratory presence already there. The increase of Haitians catapulted a backlash from conservative Dominican voices at the governmental level. Immediately after the 2010 earthquake the Dominican government created a new constitution that drastically altered the Dominican Republic's long-standing immigration laws. Frances Robles in The Miami Herald reports, "In January 2010, two weeks after the quake, a new constitution took effect, denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants." The 'new' immigration laws strove to curtail the influx of Haitian immigrants. Stephanie Hanes in USA Today reports, "The National Assembly said the change would ensure that a rush of impoverished Haitians fleeing the quake would not claim permanent residence in the Dominican Republic."

In September of 2013, however, the Dominican government changed its legal tune and instead retroactively applied its law. The results of my survey that preceded the 2013 law partially opposes it, for many Dominicans reported that people of Haitian ancestry born on Dominican soil should be granted Dominican citizenship. Garcia-Peña explains that

the ruling 168-13 [is] better known as La Sentencia (The Judgement). Approved by the Dominican Constitutional Court on September 23, 2013, La Sentencia dictates that all persons born to 'illegal immigrants' or 'persons in transit' since 1929 will not be entitled to Dominican citizenship, and thus targets those of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic with deportation. (76)

The Dominican government's law, in effect, left "tens of thousands of people...stateless, as neither country on the island of Hispaniola acknowledges them as citizens." Many Dominicans in addition to international news sites, from within and without of the Dominican Republic, protested the law.

Historical Backdrop of Dominican-Haitian Relations

Unlike most other Caribbean and Latin American countries, the Dominican Republic celebrates its independence not from a European colonial power, but its neighbor country, Haiti. …

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