03 December 2013

Visioning Dignity and Freedom - Reflections on Haiti, Migration, and Human Rights

Many people and organizations have responded to the Dominican Republic's recent assault on Dominicans of Haitian ancestry. And in the past few weeks, there have been a number of developments - including CARICOM with strong and necessary statements in protest and suspending the DR's bid for membership. And meanwhile, the mediated talks between Haiti and Dominican Republic are not going well - as reports of deportations and violence along the border make headlines. This is all too disturbing and reeks of the historical tensions and violence between these two countries. I have written about these issues in the past. And was invited to write an article about the recent ruling for Groundation Grenada early in November. Here are some highlights:
In my article titled, "Limbo Citizens or Stateless People?: Human Rights, Migration, and the Future for Dominicans of Haitian Ancestry," I offer some context for understanding the issues, while also discussing the ways Haitian migrants and their children remain vulnerable across the region (specifically making comparisons to the the Bahamas). And I discuss the implications of the ruling: "What we do know is that the ruling places already vulnerable people into a more vulnerable position, and thereby subject to further exploitation as limbo citizens or stateless people are created." 
And I also take up Myriam Chancy's argument that this ruling really creates and reinforces civic death for Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent, and I add for Haitian migrants around the region: "This issue of creating civic death is what we need to most be alarmed about in the face of increasing social and economic inequality, forced migration, and environmental challenges facing the region; we are living in uncertain and dangerous times. And while we don’t want to support or replicate neocolonial paradigms upon each other in the region, we must find ways to hold each other accountable for any violations of human rights; and I would further argue that we must find more ethical ways to deal with migration and rights across the region, especially for our Haitian brothers and sisters." 
I argue that we must develop regional solutions grounded in a shared vision of justice and equality -- fighting against human rights abuses, deportation, statelessness, and legal limbo. I ask: what does regional solidarity look like in the face of our shared and continued struggles? I offer some visioning of a future where we all can live with dignity and in freedom.  "I envision a future where people do not have to flee and escape their homelands out of fear or poverty in search of safety, basic needs, and better opportunities elsewhere. I envision a future where no one experiences civic death or non-being, where we all can live with dignity and in freedom. I envision a future where Caribbean people have created innovative solutions to our economic, political, and environmental problems. I envision a Pan Caribbean future decolonized and grounded in knowledge of our ancestors, histories/herstories, and myths. I envision a socially just and equal future with open borders and a thriving empowered community, where we love and embrace all the parts of ourselves."
See my full article on Groundation Grenada, published on 5 November 2013. (Give thanks to the Groundation Grenada collective for the opportunity and space to share my reflections, and to Nadia Huggins for the haunting and beautiful photographs that were paired with my article.)


Since so much has happened since my article early in November, I wanted to use this blog post to offer some updates and more reflections on these issues. And so the assault continues and it seems that the Dominican Republic's government is holding fast to its decision in spite of CARICOM's response and civil organizations' protests and petitions, violence and mass deportations are on the rise. The plan launched (to enact the ruling) last week gives people just 18 months to request Dominican citizenship for children born to undocumented migrants - but there are no clear requirements outlined yet for this process. Clearly, this is a violation of human rights to citizenship as this birthright is stripped away from people who are most vulnerable and targets Haitian migrants, Haitian Dominicans, and their children. And with this plan, the DR will be able to legally deport Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian ancestry -- which they have already been doing for years - even as they depend on their labor and exploit their limbo/stateless status.

As I discuss in my article, deportations and poor treatment of Haitian migrants happens not only in the DR and the United States, but also in the Bahamas. Last week, on 26 November, a boat capsized with Haitian migrants on board fleeing Haiti through Bahamian waters; over 30 Haitians died and 111 of the survivors have been detained and will be deported back to Haiti. These news reports are devastating - especially knowing that this is not an isolated incident. The articles do a fairly decent job of reporting on this tragedy and offer some context: i.e. attempting to explain why Haitians are fleeing and discussing the earthquake slow recovery, poverty, and economic struggle and dire hardship experienced by many Haitian people. NPR made connections between the DR court ruling and this specific incident in this radio report about Haitians leaving the Dominican Republic. 

The reports of this boat incident in the Bahamas received much headline news coverage I think mostly because of the ruling and its clear violation of human rights. While I appreciate the focus and attention on Haiti at this moment, it's important to know that these deportations happen all the time from the Bahamas and boats capsize and people are detained everyday. I continue to feel great shame - as a Bahamian - over our treatment of Haitian migrants. And in the midst of the debates and politics, even though I know the Bahamas is pressured by the United States to be "tough" on migration, I ask where is our sense of compassion and humanity... How can we continue to deport people in these conditions... When will we take a stronger stand (in the Bahamas, the DR, and broadly across the region) and acknowledge our connections -- and accept that Haiti is part of us and we are part of Haiti -- and take stronger, future oriented, regionally focused, action. 

My heart is heavy as I write all this and offer an overview of what's been going on with these recent events. And so I continue to call for regional solidarity and solutions to these issues. We have to find better ways of dealing with migration, citizenship, regional movement, and labor. And so I keep visioning a better future - one with dignity and freedom for Haiti and Haitians all over the world, for all migrants who have similar experiences, for the Caribbean and all Caribbean people - coming together across our differences to create and build regional solidarity. 

And while I don't have any concrete answers, I know that I must write and use my voice to speak out and say something... and I've also been building with the grassroots healing collective Ayiti Resurrect since the earthquake -- doing what I can to support healing and community building in Haiti. We are preparing for our fourth delegation and fundraising though IndiegogoWe're raising funds to continue the work we've been doing for the past three years in partnership with local Haitian organizations and members of the Komye community in Leogane, Haiti.

With recovery efforts still underway in Haiti post earthquake, this recent assault on Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, mass deportations and poor treatment of Haitian migrants all over, there is still so much work to do. And it is vital that recovery and healing for Haiti led by Haitians is at the center of this work. Ayiti Resurrect's mission and vision has always been one where the community is at the center and heart of what we do - and we support these efforts through diasporic connections and collaborations -- as a collective of people with bloodlines in the Caribbean and the African Diaspora. We are a small grassroots organization - building year by year, project by project, and person to person. This is how I'm visioning dignity and freedom.

with conscious vibes,

"Walk with Spirit" || Oil Pastel Word Art by Angelique V. Nixon

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