Citizens Without a Nation: The Construction of Haitian Illegality and Deportability in The Dominican Republic

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ABSTRACT

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.

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