By KYW community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For many, the Dominican Republic is a vacation destination. But recently, the country has been making headlines as its prepares to deport thousands of Haitian immigrants.
And today, Philadelphia’s Haitian community was speaking out.
“This is an international human rights violation,” said Florcy Morissett, a founding member of the Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia (HPP).
For several weeks her group has worked to raise awareness about the 2013 citizenship law passed in the Dominican Republic that leaves more than 200,000 Haitians born in the country to undocumented parents essentially stateless.
And, as of last Thursday, they are subject to deportation.
“A lot of the folks we are talking about are folks who are Dominican,” notes Gardy Guiteau, who is of Haitian descent.
Over the past weekend the HPP participated in a march, rally, and vigil in center city Philadelphia.
The group is working with others to launch petition drives, join an open letter to the UN, and help put economic pressure that could force the Dominican government to halt what is being characterized as social cleansing.
“Folks are calling for a boycotting of the DR as a show of support,” says Guiteau.
He says he is hoping that Americans refuse to spend their tourism dollars in the Dominican Republic.
“There is so much violence going on in the news, and most people are focused on the issues in their own country,” admits Stephania Sylvain, president of HPP, “but I am Haitian and I am American, so I cannot just stand here and be okay with injustice.”
Roughly 700,000 Haitians reside in the Dominican Republic, with officials estimating that nearly 500,000 don’t have documentation proving citizenship.
Over the past several months, more than a quarter of a million Haitians applied for citizenship, but only about 300 have received permits.
On Wednesday evening, HPP is holding a town hall meeting to discuss the situation. It is being held at La Foi (“The Faith”), 5347 North Second Street, in Philadelphia.