Two prize-winning, U.S.-based authors with roots in a divided Caribbean island are urging a range of protests against the deportations of migrants from the Dominican Republic.
Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz and Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat rallied Wednesday night with about 150 activists and community members in Miami, calling for political pressure, travel boycotts and consumer choices over items such as sugar to strip power from the governments and corporations benefiting from a policy that they say targets black migrants.
“Starting in the community where we live — how we are spending our money to make these choices, from your sugar to your vacation — to think about what’s being done in your name, what you’re subsidizing. What your presence means — and what your absence means,” said Danticat, whose memoir “Brother, I’m Dying,” about her elderly uncle’s fatal attempt to immigrant from Haiti to the U.S. was a National Book Award finalist.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola, but the countries have long had an uneasy relationship, particularly over migrant workers. An estimated 460,000 Haitian migrants live in the Dominican Republic, but Dominican officials have said just 10,000 have provided the documents required by an immigration registration program aimed at regulating the flow of migrants across its border.
The Dominican government says it will deport non-citizens who didn’t submit applications to establish legal residency before a June 17 deadline.
Advocates for the migrants say the program is discriminatory, and both Haitian and Dominican communities have led protests in Miami and New York since last week.
Diaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” said he found the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo in “a state of terror” last week just as the deadline passed, with the government’s critics receiving death threats and taking their families into hiding.
Danticat said she was worried about images of women and young children who had nowhere to go after being deported to Haiti.
Diaz and Danticat linked the deportations to violence against blacks in the U.S., including the mass shooting of nine people last week at a South Carolina church, as well as migrant surges at Mexico’s border with the U.S., across the Mediterranean into Europe and in Asia.
At blame, Diaz said, is indifference to racial and political tensions that exploit migrant workers and their countries’ resources while stripping humanity from people “who are attempting to save themselves from the ruin inflicted by other people.”
But the Dominican government is vulnerable to political pressure from travel boycotts and protests wherever Dominican officials make trade trips, Diaz said.
“I’ve been working on targeting all the intellectual authors of this, not only identifying them but also boycotting and finding that way to interrupt their access to their easy privilege here in the United States,” Diaz told The Associated Press. “There’s a lot of us who are putting a lot of money in these corrupt human beings’ pockets, and questions have to be raised at a personal level and at an organizational level.”