Dominican Republic: We must raise our voice against government racism and xenophobia!

We publish here an unitary statement by organizations challenging the current right wing offensive of the Dominican government under President Luis Abinader:

The Abinader government is stirring up racist and xenophobic hatred against the hard-working Haitian immigrant community, imposing measures that violate human rights, such as denying access to health care and mass layoffs of immigrant workers. These measures, along with the mobilisation of troops to the border and talk of a supposed Haitian threat, are used to cover up corruption scandals and anti-people economic austerity plans. The government is desperate to divert attention from the electricity tariffs, the increase in food and fuel prices, the scandal of Abinader’s use of tax havens revealed in the Pandora Papers, the corruption of Minister Macarrulla, the 2022 budget cuts to health and higher education, the anti-democratic draft Penal Code, and the environmental destruction at the hands of mega-mining companies such as Barrick Gold, the ongoing tax exemptions for big capitalists in the free trade zones and tourism, among other facts that show that the “change” promised by the PRM was a swindle.

The measures announced on 3 November comprise auditing the National Regularisation Plan to revoke residency visas for immigrants, establishing 38 offices nationwide to identify and prosecute people from the immigrant community, holding meetings with business sectors to limit the hiring of immigrant workers, and prohibiting access to hospitals for immigrants without valid residency visas. Two days earlier, the government had announced that it was suspending indefinitely the visa programme for Haitian university students.

These government measures are not only to persecute and discriminate against Haitian immigrants, but they also penalise thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent who were denationalised and abandoned in the limbo of statelessness after the 168-13 ruling, since the government treats this sector of the Dominican population as if they were undocumented immigrants.

From the College of Doctors to sectors of the Church and even the PRM itself, there has been criticism of the measures. The official argument has been that by restricting student visas, Abinader is trying to “protect” the country from criminal gangs from the neighbouring country. But these gangs do not operate in the Dominican Republic, so the argument is ridiculous and cannot hide the deep racist and xenophobic hatred that motivates the measure. That is why we do not agree with those who say that these measures are “a mistake”, they are something much more serious than a mistake. They are part of a systematically racist and xenophobic policy, which threatens to plunge the Dominican Republic into an apartheid-like regime. That is why we also reject the fact that all the parties represented in Congress have taken part in the creation of the consultation table on the policy towards Haiti, set up by the government to legitimise this anti-democratic orientation.

In January this year, the Director-General of Migration announced that fines would apply to carriers and landlords who provided transport or rented housing to immigrants without visas. This encouraged civilians to undertake arbitrary control of the migratory status of any immigrant. Abinader then attacked the sugarcane growers, suspending the payment of hundreds of pensions granted by previous governments. In February, the government announced the construction of a multi-million dollar border wall 190 kilometres long, under the false argument of “protecting territorial integrity”, although there is no territorial threat. In September, while thousands of arbitrary deportations were taking place, Abinader called at the UN General Assembly for the “international community” to intervene in Haiti, and a few days later announced the application of the 1992 Balaguerist labour code according to which no company can hire over 20 per cent, immigrant workers, setting a 90-day deadline for the regularisation of workers. Before the deadline, both Haitian and black-skinned Dominican farm workers were already facing army raids and mass arrests. The government also announced that it would require international health insurance for foreign women 6 months pregnant to enter the country and that insurance would be required for access to hospitals. In November we have seen with indignation immigration agents violently detaining hundreds of pregnant women in and around hospitals, to deport them.

Abinader and his officials use grotesque lies to incite racial hatred. They accuse the immigrant community, and especially Haitian women, of consuming 40 per cent of the health budget, when less than 10 per cent of the people treated in hospitals are immigrants according to official figures. It is not the immigrant women who deny the Dominican people access to public health care, but the Abinader government, whose proposed budget for the year 2022, reduces health spending by 16 per cent while financing the ARS and the AFP.

As for the lie repeated a thousand times by Abinader and the extreme right, following the method of the Nazi ideologue Goebbels, that supposedly “the Dominican Republic cannot continue to carry the burden of immigrants”, the reality is the opposite. The immigrant working-class sector contributes 9.5 per cent of the national GDP, according to estimates from the Complementary Study of the 2017 National Immigrant Survey. This significant contribution is in return for mostly miserable wages, disenfranchisement and limited access to social security.

The government uses the immigrant community as a collective scapegoat and seeks to silence any hint of protest. The director of the Directorate General of Migration has threatened to use the army to attack Haitian immigrant communities, claiming that there is an alleged risk that these communities will carry out a Kosovo-style secession. A blatant lie. In Dajabon on 8 November, the Minister of Interior and Police said that the primary threat to our country is Haiti. On the same day, the National Police, acting in coordination with neo-fascist groups, prevented a mobilisation of over 300 sugar cane workers to the National Palace, precisely to reject the racist and xenophobic measures.

No one who lives from their salaried work, no one who lives in a working-class neighbourhood, can be indifferent to the government’s aggressions against Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent who have been deprived of their nationality. Instead of making the immigrant community even more precarious and persecuting them, the government should respect the human rights of all people living. It should restore the nationality of Dominicans of Haitian descent affected by judgment 168-13. It should also reverse the racist and xenophobic measures and carry out a real regularisation process that recognises the legal residence of thousands of people who have been contributing to the development of this country with their work for many years. With sugarcane workers, they should extend legal residency to 10 years. We call on all people with democratic convictions and who recognise the value of human dignity to raise their voices and mobilise against Abinader’s racist and xenophobic policies.

As the Dominican poet Norberto James Rawlings, in his poem “Los inmigrantes”, states, this homeland has been built by all the people who live in it with our sweat, burdened by an abusive, racist and exploitative ruling class:

“For every day that passes,
every day that fallson your weary salt of workers
we build
the light you desire for us.
We secure
the possibility of song
for all”.

Socialist Workers’ Movement (MST)

Union of Cane Workers

Haitian Collective RD

Recognised Movement

Social-Political Women Mama Tingo

Aquelarre RD


Conexión Cultural por el Bienestar y la Autonomía La Ceiba (Cultural Connection for Welfare and Autonomy La Ceiba)

Junta de Prietas

Caribbean Institute of Decolonial Thought and Research

We are all Dominican

Socio-Cultural Movement for Haitian Workers (MOSCTHA)

Movement of Haitian Dominican Women (MUDHA)

Committee for the Human Rights of Haitian Dominicans (CODHA)

Centre for Sustainable Development (CEDESO)

Realengo Studio-NYC

La Negreta Foundation

Revolutionary Socialist Militancy (MRS)

Grupo Arbol Maravilloso

Dominicans United-NYC

Haitian Women’s Network-Chile

Latin American Group for Feminist Training and Action (GLEFAS)

Articulación Nacional Campesina