As of Thursday, the Dominican Republic has chosen to proceed with the cleansing of its immigration rolls, implementing a policy of forcible expulsion of black persons who are or can be perceived as being of Haitian descent.
The policy, which violates various international treaties and conventions, is a clear-cut case of ethnic cleansing.
It is also the culmination of a rising tide in anti-Haitian sentiment within the Dominican Republic, born out of nearly a century of government-sanctioned prejudice, racist rhetoric and propaganda that openly targets blackness.
What seems to be escaping wider discourse surrounding the Dominican Republic’s policies is the avoidance of exposing its racial underpinnings.
There has been consistent hesitation among countries like the United States to openly condemn migrant policies due in part to its own complicated issues surrounding immigration.
However, let us be careful not to conflate the Dominican Republic’s inhumane and unjust immigration policy with its policy of denaturalization — a policy which employs clear racial markers and skin color to determine who it deems Dominican.
The veil of ethnicity is being cast out in the public purview to justify a migrant and naturalization policy primarily rooted in skin color. The consequences have been steep. There’s reportedly been a rise in public beatings, burnings, and lynchings since the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal ruled in 2013 to retroactively revoke naturalized citizenship from Dominicans of Haitian descent – a population which constitutes large swaths of the country’s black inhabitants.
Even more alarming than the prospect of forced deportation on the basis of skin color or perceived ethnicity is the real fear among black Dominicans that the rising government-sanctioned racially based rhetoric may culminate in genocide.