The Huffington Post reports Black activist groups are pressuring the Obama administration to take a stand against the Dominican Republic, which has recently ejected thousands of Haitian migrant workers and Dominicans of Haitian descent.
“Groups from New York, Philadelphia, Miami and other U.S. cities have banded together in a loose coalition called #Rights4AllInDR, holding sit-ins and organizing protests,” reported The Huffington Post.
The Dominican government recently enacted a plan to deport Haitian immigrants and some Dominicans of Haitian descent, claiming it wanted to crack down on people who were a drain on the economy. However, many Haitians perform manual labor and farm work and are an important part of the Dominican workforce. Critics say the move is more about racism than economics. Haitians are Black, while most Dominicans would be considered Latino by American standards.
Opal Tometi, the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said the Dominican government was using Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent as a convenient excuse for poor economic policy.
According to The Miami Times, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and human rights activists accused Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama of not condemning what they saw as a major human rights violation.
However, The Miami Times also reported that Kerry had met with Dominican President Danilo Medina in the hopes of finding a diplomatic solution to the problem. A state department official claimed the United States government was limited in what it could do because it was an internal problem.
‘At the same time the Department of State has to make clear that the Dominican Republic is an independent, sovereign nation,” said Kent Brokenshire, deputy coordinator at the State Department, according to The Miami Times.
The Dominican government has also tried to influence Washington’s opinion on the mass deportations. The Huffington Post reports that last year the Dominican government spent more $800,000 with Stepteo & Johnson, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm.
“The relationship appears to be ongoing however, and it is likely that those costs have only increased with the spotlight now firmly on the Dominican Republic and the firm bringing in hourly rates of around $1,000,” reported the Center for Economic Policy and Research.
The lobbying firm also created speaking points to help the Dominican government put a positive spin on the mass deportations and distributed them to members of congress. James Brewster, U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, recently praised the Dominican government’s efforts.
“Everything’s in very good order,” Brewster said. “I hope that when people arrive here they’ll be treated well. I don’t have any doubt that they will.”
In a statement provided to The Huffington Post, the State Department urged the Dominican government to treat the deportees with dignity and respect.
“The United States has consistently urged Dominican authorities to address the issues faced by persons at risk of statelessness in a manner that respects their human rights and is consistent with the Dominican Republic’s international commitments and human rights obligations,” said the statement.
However, the Dominican government’s mass deportations has created a humanitarian crisis with thousands of Haitian workers arriving in a poor country with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Some U.S.-based activists groups have called for a tourism boycott to try to influence the Dominican government.
“It’s important that people of conscience in the international community put pressure on the Dominican Republic,” Tometi told The Huffington Post in an email. “We are supporting a tourism boycott of the Dominican Republic and encouraging others to stand with Dominicans of Haitian descent who are fighting for their lives and their rights. We in the U.S. will continue to rise up until Black lives matter here and around the globe.”