A country of migrants
A country of migrants
Its strategic location in the Caribbean islands has made the Dominican Republic a point of departure and arrival throughout its history. Indigenous populations arriving from the continent that would be called America settled on the island later known as Hispaniola and, upon the Discovery, the Spanish conquistadors began the migration that would forever mark the ethnic profile of the territory. With the Spanish settlement, the conditions were set for the massive transfer of an African slave population to the island.
The Dominican-born population of Spaniards and Africans - the decimated indigenous people left an ethnic heritage barely identifiable by the scientific resources of the 20th century - gave origin to the Dominican mulatto. The mixing of races and nationalities, however, has never been detained.
Neighboring Haiti forever transformed the border that separates the countries into a point of departure, return and permanency. In the period from the second half of the 19th century to the end of the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (1961), important immigration influxes have taken place. This period contains two fundamental currents of immigration: the arrival of the laborers of the Antilles and later of the businessmen, peasants, traders and political refugees from neighboring islands and Europe.
The massive immigration of Antillean laborers was motivated by the need for a cheap work force for carrying out public works and cutting the sugar cane of the foreign capital sugar industry that blossomed in the last third of the 19th century. It is precisely during the first U.S. occupation, between 1915 and 1925, that the largest number of imported laborers lived in the country.
First, those from the Minor Antilles (English) predominated, especially around the turn of the century; but later, above all since the second quarter of the 20th century, Haitians have constituted the majority. They are not only located around the large sugar refineries (La Romana, San Pedro de Macorís, Barahona, etc.), but they also gradually settled on the Dominican side of the border.
The group of businessmen, farmers, traders and political refugees is less numerous than the former. These immigrants made significant economic, social and cultural contributions to the country. At first, the current was composed of political refugees and businessmen pushed out by the independence processes of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Then, the Spanish Civil War and the outbreak of World War II attracted Spaniards, Italians and Germans (especially those of Jewish descent).
Trujillo's agricultural colonization plan along the border should be mentioned. Instead of counteracting the presence and assimilation of Haitians into the area and guaranteeing them sufficient nutrition, Trujillo unfolded a campaign to attract Europeans, Syria-Lebanese and even Japanese in exchange for land for cultivation.
Since the fall of the dictator, the migration flows have swelled. The immigration processes have increased and accelerated. Today, it is evident that the largest foreign colony is Haitian, but there is also a growing dynamic for the entrance of other foreigners from Europe, due to the expansion of tourism.
Current Estimates (2005)
Organizations that study immigration estimate that more than 500,000 Haitian immigrants live in the Dominican Republic, while approximately another 500,000 born in Dominican territory have Haitian parents. It is an extremely poor immigration, as the large majority has little or no schooling and is composed of a large number of people that cannot provide a document of identity from their country of origin. Due to this difficulty, their status from the first moment in the country is irregular, not to speak of the generally illegal nature of this migration flow. Data from the International Migration Organization (IMO) inform that in 2002, Haitians paid around DR$1,500 pesos each in order to cross the border.
It is important to highlight the conditions of extreme poverty in the bateyes, or workers' settlements, shared by Dominicans and Haitian alike. It is a misery that affects all sugar cane workers regardless of nationality and that historically follows a tradition established by foreign investors (specifically U.S. businessmen) that, at the turn of the century, began to use Dominican territory to found plantation-like productive units, sustained by a cheaper and untrained work force brought from the other Antilles. The poverty of the Dominican economy initially and in the later decadence of the sugar industry that did not know how, could not and did not want to modernize its means of production later aggravated the situation.
Due to the decline of sugar, many Haitian workers have moved on to other productive areas and today are found on various agricultural plantations (coffee, rice, among others), in the informal sector (fruit and juice sales, gardening) or in the tourist industry; and above all in construction, one of the strongest economic sectors since the early 90s, in which Haitians constitute approximately 80% of the work force.
The Dominican Republic is a country in the process of development that suffers high levels of poverty and must effect change on crucial and basic factors for the well-being of the population such as nutrition, health, social security and education. Due to precisely this situation, many Dominicans have had to go abroad, even risking their lives. In fact, today remittances that Dominicans abroad contribute to the country have become one of the principal mainstays of the national economy. The country cannot give to the working immigrant what it cannot supply for its own citizens. But neither does it posses the sufficient infrastructure nor the economic resources to face and control the abundant illegal traffic of illegal Haitian immigrants.
While it searches for a solution for the hundreds of thousands of undocumented Haitians (more than 90%), the Dominican state has guaranteed access to primary and secondary education for minors and has arrived at an agreement with the Republic of Haiti so that its embassy in the Dominican Republic can equip its citizens with identification documents.
Table 1. Estimates of total Haitian and foreign populations
Table 2 : Foreigners registered and residencies issued.
Over 2,000 Foreigners Become Dominican Citizens
Two thousand thirty four foreigners have opted for Dominican nationality in the last four years, according to statistics gathered by the Ministry of Interior and Police.
Of this amount, 580 are Cubans, dominating first place. They are followed by 481 Chinese, 348 from the United States and 147 from Venezuela. Curiously, only 18 Haitians have taken Dominican nationality.
Puerto Ricans occupy the last place on the list with 62 people taking nationality, 7 of whom did so this year. Among them was the famous singer Danny Rivera.
The year 2007 was when most foreigners decided to take Dominican nationality, with 683 in all. Cubans, again, were in first place with 239 and Americans next with 137 people becoming new citizens.
People from almost all countries in the world have decided to swear loyalty to the Dominican flag. Among them are Palestinians, Algerians, Austrians, Armenians, Byelorussians, Bulgarians, Canadians, and people from the United Arab Emirates, Finland and Greece.
In four years, 20 Mexican nations have sworn allegiance to the Dominican flag, along with 23 Pakistanis, 15 Lebanese, 3 Nigerians, 65 Spaniards, 37 French and 16 Argentines.
At the same time, a source at the Interior Ministry said that the number would be higher except that many foreigners who sought Dominican nationality were denied due to pending “issues” with the judicial systems of their respective home countries “and that their Interpol report was negative.”
The Department of Interpol, which has the final word when a foreigner from any country in the world applies for citizenship, must fill the constitutional requirements that include, in the case of the Dominican Republic, living for five consecutive and uninterrupted years in the country.
As such, the statistics gathered by the Interior Ministry and Police show that in 2oo7, 5 Iranians out of the currently nationalized 10 also received citizenship.
In 2005-2006, 1,068 foreigners took citizenship. In each time period, the largest number of new citizens were Cubans who opted for the Dominican Republic as their second home. In 2005, 109 Cubans became Dominican citizens and in 2006 154 Cubans did the same.
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