In 2013, the Dominican state ruled to uphold a 2010 constitutional amendment that stripped thousands of Dominicans of Haitian origin of their citizenship and forced them to leave the country during summer 2015. About 2,200 of these people became displaced in Anse-à-Pitres, where most took up residence in temporary camps. I use the term forced migrants or displaced persons interchangeably to refer to these people. Many endure challenges in meeting their daily survival needs in Haiti, a country with extreme poverty, considerable political instability, and still in the process of rebuilding itself from the devastating earthquake of 2010. Drawing on fourteen months of ethnographic field- work in Anse-à-Pitres, I examine how these displaced people, in the face of statelessness and amid their precarious social and economic conditions, create survival strategies by drawing upon everyday labor mobility and informal economic activities within and across their communities. Furthermore, I demonstrate that the involvement of these displaced people in community life through socio-economic practices attests to a sense of belonging and produces a form of substantive citizenship in their absence of legal citizenship. This kind of substantive citizenship is also shaped by the ability of the displaced people to re- define life goals, participate in local meetings with the local state and organizations on the ground, and challenge systems of power that seek to impose their choices upon them. In this dissertation, I argue against construing the displaced people as hopeless by focusing on the forms of power and agency that they exercise in and over their lives, which make them agents of their self-development.
Migrant “illegality” has increasingly become a popular topic in political debates around the world, but illegal populations are not random or self-generating, they are created and patterned (DeGenova 2002:422). Through the recent enforcement of new and existing immigration laws, the Dominican State has begun to move large populations of Haitian immigrants and their descendants into irregular or “illegal” immigration status. A historical analysis of the relationship between the Dominican State and Haitian immigrants presents a paradox: the Dominican economy has become increasingly dependent on Haitian migrant labor, yet the Dominican State has persistently worked to force Haitians and their descendants into irregular migratory status. The irregular immigration status leaves these individuals vulnerable and in a constant state of deportability. This research makes two claims in an attempt to understand the motives of the state; primarily, the Dominicans State has used immigration policy to assert its territorial sovereignty and enforce the historically embedded ideology of anti-Haitianism. Secondly, the Dominican State has used immigration policy and immigration enforcement to control and subordinate a large Haitian workforce. The research takes an interpretive hermeneutic approach to conduct an in-depth historical analysis of five key pieces of Dominican legislation, which comprise the recent Dominican immigration reform. This analysis is conducted though drawing on the economic, historical, and social information characterizing the relationship between the State and Haitian immigrants. These analytical tools are combined with the personal experiences of the researcher. The investigation relies primarily on theoretical literature of Nicholas DeGenova to conclude that the state uses nationalistic ideas to maintain support for the irregular status of Haitian immigrants and their descendants. The irregular and thus deportable status of Haitian immigrants and their descendants is functional to the Dominican capitalist economic system.