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Help for Haitian Immigrants

September 13, 2023
Photo: Resonate Global Mission

Haitians are fleeing Haiti as instability in the country escalates with increased gang violence, kidnappings, and murders. Many are crossing into the Dominican Republic, with whom they share  the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

But while Haitians have lived in the Dominican Republic for years, tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants and people of Haitian descent are now being deported.

Resonate Global Mission missionaries and ministry partners are helping people secure legal citizenship. They need your help.

Increase in Deportations

Haitians have been immigrating to the Dominican Republic for decades. But recently the number of immigrants being deported has risen. One news outlet reports that 114,125 Haitians were deported from the Dominican Republic from January through June of this year. And not only immigrants but also people with Haitian ancestry who have been born in the Dominican Republic are being forced to leave.

“This is the worst [deportation situation] that most people have ever seen,” said a Resonate missionary working in the Dominican Republic.

People are being separated from their spouses, children, parents, siblings, and other family members and friends.

“There are reports of agents going into hospitals and deporting pregnant women, going to homes at night and pulling people out, and even going into churches during services to pull people out. A Haitian pastor recently told me that this happened in his church several times, and now they lock the doors and close the windows during services,” said the missionary.

Deportation has become a business. Many of the deportation cases that Resonate ministry partners have learned about have included people who were detained but set free after paying off the officials.

Those who are deported to Haiti face many challenges there, being in constant danger from gang violence, kidnappings, and murders. Haiti has struggled to rebuild after massive destruction caused by hurricanes and earthquakes. The country also lacks governmental stability and infrastructure, making it difficult to secure housing, clean water, food, gas, and other necessities.

Further, for deportees who are of Haitian descent and have only ever lived in the Dominican Republic, there are no homes, jobs, or other resources to “return” to. They might also not speak fluent French or Haitian Creole, two of the official languages in Haiti. The Dominican Republic speaks Dominican Spanish.

The deportation of Haitian immigrants and people of Haitian ancestry has added new needs that Resonate is working to meet.

Resonate’s Work in the DR

The majority of Resonate’s work in the Dominican Republic has been, and continues to be, alongside immigrants from Haiti and people of Haitian descent.

Haitians experience economic exploitation and marginalization, as well as racial and cultural discrimination in the Dominican Republic. Most live in vulnerable and marginalized communities, including bateyes.

“Bateyes are plantation villages owned and operated by the sugarcane company,” and in these villages “the company is the dominant—and sometimes the only—law and economy. Many have no electricity or running water, no schools, no clinics, no businesses except a company store, and no economic opportunities. In some cases, the people aren’t allowed to even have a garden plot,” said the missionary.

The church is often the only other institution in these villages. While the government usually does not provide services, the church and other ministries are uniquely positioned to serve these communities.

Resonate partners with the Christian Reformed Church in the Dominican Republic (CRCDR) and Juventud Empoderada para la Transformación (JET) to help care for these communities. With support from the CRCNA and Resonate, JET and the CRCDR have been able to help meet needs in bateyes such as equipping Christian leaders to make a difference, providing Christian education for children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend school, and partnering with local churches to construct buildings that serve as community centers.

Why so Many Haitians Immigrate to the DR

“One may legitimately say that many of these people are in the country illegally. . . . But there is a long and complex story of how we got to this situation,” said the missionary.

He explained that Haitians were once encouraged to migrate to the Dominican Republic for work.

Throughout the 20th century, the country’s economy, infrastructure, foreign trade, and general development were built primarily on sugarcane. But native Dominicans refused to do the work because it was considered slave labor. The sugarcane companies relied on an influx of Haitian immigrants to cut sugarcane.

Over time, most of the sugarcane refineries became state-run, and the government became lax on immigration policies—while also revoking agreements and plans for people to immigrate to the country legally.

Haitians in the Dominican Republic have long experienced prejudice. In 2010 the country ratified a new constitution that did away with jus soli, a policy that gave Haitians and other immigrants the right to acquire nationality or citizenship by being born within the Dominican Republic. In its place, they instituted jus sanguinis, by which citizenship became determined or acquired by the nationality or ethnicity of one or both parents.

“Everyone knew that this was targeted at Haitians,” said the missionary.

How You Can Help

Through their ministry partners CRC-DR and JET, Resonate is helping Haitian immigrants and people of Haitian ancestry to secure legal residency and, if possible, citizenship in the Dominican Republic.

First, they are helping immigrants without documentation to secure a one-year visitor visa, temporary visitor status, or residency.

“This is costly,” shared the Resonate missionary.

Second, they are helping children who are born to immigrants to become registered through helping to educate them or, in a few cases, securing them with legal assistance.

This past year, 35 people were able to resolve at least part of their legal status with help from Resonate, the CRC-DR, and JET.

The process is slow and often costly, but support of these efforts can help make the difference in the lives of individuals and entire families.

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