Policymakers and activists with roots or connections to the Caribbean nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic want you to think twice about vacationing in the tropical tourist hub.
Haitian Americans gathered before the State House Tuesday to call on the government of the Dominican Republic to cease a controversial immigration policy which they say has resulted in thousands of Dominican citizens with Haitian ancestry being deported to Haiti, sometimes generations after their families first came to the western nation.
And how does a small but vocal group of Haitian-born Americans, second and third generation immigrants and their allies change the mind of a foreign government? That old fashioned way: the power of the American buck.
“This is an economic issue which has been propelled into a human crisis. It’s an economic issue and the only way I think you fight an economic issue is to hit people in their pockets and that’s the only way I know how to do that,” said former State Representative Marie St. Fleur.
Several, but not all, of the speakers on the steps of the State House Tuesday want Haitian Americans and their allies to boycott, or at least think about a boycott, of the DR. Americans should “reconsider any existing plans to vacation in the Dominican Republic until it’s government reverses course and stops plans to repatriate Dominicans who happen to be of Haitian descent,” according to Dorchester State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry.
“It is time for us to send a collective and clear message that we expect the DR to treat its citizens with respect. The people of the Haitian diaspora here in the United State and our allies can and should take immediate action,” Forry said.
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Forry asked Americans to call their federal lawmakers and be respectful when discussing the situation.
“The inhumane policy that their current government is pursuing does not reflect the views of all Dominicans, so many of whom have roots in Haiti as well.”
Congressman Michael Capuano stood with the ralliers and hopes the situation in the Dominican Republic can be resolved without drastic action.
“I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the Dominican Republic has been a good and longtime friend of the United States,” Capuano told reporters after the event. The Somerville Democrat hopes the only method necessary to alter the DR’s policy will be “appealing to their higher nature” and won’t involve economic impact for the nation.
That said, Capuano laid out some scenarios where American pressure, economic or governmental, can be leveraged. Foreign aid changes, business relationship influence and other avenues could be sought to curb the Dominican Republic’s behavior, Capuano said.
“My hope is the simple call for it will be one of the factors the Dominican Republic’s government takes into account,” Capuano said, adding, “I mean, I may get there. I hope I don’t.”