The End of U.S. Complicity In the Dominican Republic

How Washington Should Respond to the Humanitarian Crisis

People stand near tents at a camp for returned Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans, near the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, in Malpasse, August 3, 2015.  Andres Martinez Casares / Reuters

In the past two months, more than 60,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent have fled the Dominican Republic under the threat of deportation. The exodus is in large part the consequence of a 2013 ruling by the Dominican Constitutional Court that effectively stripped some 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship, thereby creating the largest stateless population in the Western Hemisphere. Since then, thousands of ethnic Haitians have resettled on the Haitian side of the border, including the family of 28-year-old Molene Charles, which lives in a squalid settlement with 700 other families in Anse-à-Pitres. Their home in the Dominican Republic, the AP reported last week, was burned to the ground by locals.

An immigration officer enters a detention center of the Dominican Republic's General Directorate of Migration where an undisclosed number of Haitians had been detained, in Haina, Dominican Republic, August 2015. RICARDO ROJAS / REUTERS
Such grim reports contrast sharply with the initial assessments of U.S. officials. In July, during a visit to the Dominican border town of Pedernales, just two miles from Anse-à-Pitres, U.S. Ambassador James Brewster, who had posed for photos with the heads of the Dominican army, border patrol, and migration directorate, praised the Dominican security forces and denied that Santo Domingo was violating human rights. Brewster’s evaluation corresponded neatly with that of his U.S. counterpart in Haiti, U.S. Ambassador Pamela Ann White, who likewise claimed in July that there was no evidence of a humanitarian crisis in the Dominican Republic.

In the face of U.S. inaction, more than 550 former Peace Corps volunteers and three former country directors for the Dominican Republic wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on August 7, urging the United States to cut off its security assistance to the Dominican Republic, worth some $17.5 million since 2013, until Santo Domingo improved its record.

Washington’s mild admonition appeared to have had little effect.

A week later, on August 14, the State Department issued a tepid statement breaking its much-criticized silence on the issue, “recogniz[ing] the prerogative of the Dominican Republic to remove individuals from its territory who are present without authorization,” and urging Santo Domingo to “conduct any deportations in a transparent

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