United against Dominican deportations, protesters divided on boycott

Island nation's new deportation policy targeting migrant people of Haitian descent

Photo: Thinkstock

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Two prominent Haitian community leaders on Tuesday called on residents to consider boycotting travel to the Dominican Republican as they denounced what they described as a humanitarian crisis spurred by that island nation’s new deportation policy targeting migrant people of Haitian descent.

Haitian and Dominican community leaders gathered at the State House on Tuesday to rally against the Dominican Republic’s policy toward those of Haitian descent, many of whom have lived for generations in the Dominican Republican along the border of the two counties.

Despite the unity on display, however, community and political leaders differed over whether to call for people in the United States to boycott travel to the Dominican Republic to exert economic pressure on the government to reconsider its policy.

Sen. Linda, Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester Democrat of Haitian descent, brought together a coalition of people and groups, including some from the black and Irish communities in Boston, to call on the Dominican government to reconsider its positions and to urge the U.S. State Department to intervene.

While Forry and former state lawmaker Marie St. Fleur called for the travel boycott, Cambridge Vice Mayor Dennis Benzan said a boycott would hurt poor Dominicans who work in cane fields and resorts on the island. Instead, he called on people to contact their elected officials and for the United States to first exhaust diplomatic options.

FOR PHOTOS OF THE RALLY, click here.

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, a Cambridge Democrat, said he’s “not there yet” on calling for a boycott, but said he won’t hesitate to recommend “other levers” if diplomacy fails. “My hope is the Dominican government comes to its senses,” Capuano said.
State Rep. Russell Holmes, the chair of the Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus, urged those in the crowd to speak up in their communities and call their elected officials in the federal government to bring attention to the issue.

“Unity does not always mean agreement,” Holmes said.

St. Fleur said Haiti, still recovering from the catastrophic earthquake in 2010, is not well equipped to accept tens of thousands of new refugees from the Dominican Republic and provide them with basic services. She said many of those leaving the Dominican Republic fear deportation because they cannot produce proper paperwork, have no roots in Haiti anymore and only speak Spanish, rather than the native Creole.

“Talk is not enough. We have been talking,” St. Fleur said. “The only way you fight an economic issue is to hit people in their pockets.”

Despite the disagreement over a boycott, the rally brought together a variety of organizations and community leaders from the Haitian and Dominican communities attempting to draw attention to what is happening on the island shared by the two counties.
Benzan said the Dominican people fought for democratic institutions and government, but said the current policy toward Haitians does not live up to that ideal.

“The political nonsense that took place during denationalization of Haitian people is not democratic,” Benzan said.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sent a representative from the city’s Office of New Bostonians to show his solidarity with the Haitian community, and a number of lawmakers, including Reps. Daniel Cullinane, Michelle DuBois, Christine Barber and Sean Garballey and Sen. Kenneth Donnelly joined the rally.

Ronnie Millar, the executive director of the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston, said he was “deeply disappointed” in the Dominican government.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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