Dominican Republic responds to U.S. embassy warning that darker-skinned Americans could be profiled there

In the wake of heightened efforts in rounding up undocumented Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic, the U.S. embassy issued a warning to darker-skinned American tourists saying they could either be profiled or detained in the Caribbean nation as a result, the Miami Herald reported.

But the Dominican government denies that is the case. The response comes after the U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo said that local media outlets are reporting of a campaign where Dominican migration officials are targeting and detaining individuals they suspect to be illegally staying in the country. Most of the people being detained are said to be of Haitian descent.

“These actions may lead to increased interaction with Dominican authorities, especially for darker-skinned U.S. citizens and U.S. citizens of African descent,” the embassy warned. “There are reports that detainees are kept in overcrowded detention centers, without the ability to challenge their detention, and without access to food or restroom facilities, sometimes for days at a time, before being released or deported to Haiti.”

But in response, Dominican authorities said that the warning that was issued by the U.S. Embassy on Saturday is “manifestly unfounded, untimely.” The Caribbean nation’s foreign affairs ministry also said the warning taints “the excellent bilateral relationship” the two countries share.

“Our country is the first trading partner of the United States in the Caribbean and the sixth in Latin America. We have been one of America’s most trusted allies in maintaining a free, open, prosperous, and secure international system for all nations,” the Sunday statement added.

At the beginning of November, President Louis Abinader signed an official order supporting large deportations and the setting up of a police unit to look into non-Dominicans who were illegally staying in the country. But Haitian nationals, together with the United Nations and human rights groups, have called out Dominican authorities for their treatment of foreigners by Dominican police. Videos that have been shared reportedly show the Caribbean nation’s police force physically assaulting Haitian nationals.

Prior to the issuance of President Abinader’s decree, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, asked the Dominican Republic as well as other neighboring countries to stop deporting people to Haiti because of the human rights and humanitarian issues that the country is currently experiencing, the Miami Herald reported.

“I am troubled to see that forced returns of Haitians to Haiti from the Dominican Republic are continuing,” said Turk. “Unremitting armed violence and systematic human rights violations in Haiti do not currently allow for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of Haitians to the country. I reiterate my call to all countries in the region, including the Dominican Republic, to halt the deportation of Haitians.”

And though the United States has also condemned the treatment of undocumented migrants, it did not call for deportations to Haiti to be put on hold. Dominican authorities – between July and October 2022 –  have deported 43,900 Haitian nationals. But the country’s foreign ministry said the Biden administration has also been similarly deporting undocumented migrants.

“The Dominican Republic can’t take it anymore,” said the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Relations. The ministry also said that the Biden administration, which is taking issue with their deportations, also deported over 20,000 Haitian nationals between February 2021 and February 2022, per the Miami Herald.

The ministry added that the Dominican president’s administration has “repeatedly and systematically denounced before the international community the alarming situation in Haiti, aggravated since the assassination of President [Jovenel] Moise,” and that negatively impacts the Dominican Republic’s national security. The island of Hispaniola is occupied by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“Without the support of the international community, we have made an extraordinary effort to keep the border open to allow the Haitian population access to vital food, medicine, fuel, water, etc. Likewise, we have kept the commercial flow open, despite the number of kidnappings of Dominicans, including a diplomat from our embassy in Haiti,” the statement said. “Our armed forces unilaterally bear the high cost of providing security to the entire border between the two countries, maintaining some 9,000 troops in that place.”

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