Dom Republic, March 7-9, 2002
Migration and Development:
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Whither the Dominican Republic and Haiti?
Philip Martin, Elizabeth Midgley and Michael Teitelbaum
March 15, 2002
POPULATION AND ECONOMY 2
MIGRATION FROM HISPANIOLA 5
HAITI-DR MIGRATION 6
HAITI AND THE US 8
DOMINICAN TRANSNATIONALISM 9
HAITIAN-DR MIGRATION 11
TRAFFICKING AND SMUGGLING 12
US CONSULATE VISIT 13
FREE ZONE MANUFACTURING 13
BATEYS, HAITIANS, AND SUGAR 14
DR GOVERNMENT PERSPECTIVES 15
The 10th Migration Dialogue seminar was held March 7-9, 2002 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Migration Dialogue seminars provide a setting for 40 opinion leaders from Europe and North America to learn about and discuss the major migration management issues of the 21st century. Seminars include day-long field trips that enables participants to observe real- world migration issues, and to discuss them with government officials, employers, and migrant advocates and migrants. Reports of past seminars are at: //migration.ucdavis.edu/
The Caribbean island of Hispaniola is divided between two quite different countries, the Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti. Emigration pressures from the Dominican Republic are often described as "structural," suggesting that foreign investment and the creation of factory jobs in export-processing zones or services would not reduce the desire of many Dominicans to emigrate. The Dominican Republic is often described as a transnational society—1 in 9 residents lives abroad, and many shuttle between New York City or Boston and the Dominican Republic in a lifestyle characterized by work-in-the-US and vacation or retirement in the Dominican Republic: "Over there (US) is the country of work. This is the country of the heart."
The central issues explored in the 2002 seminar included:
∑ The DR economy grew rapidly in the 1990s—6-8 percent a year—as thousands of especially rural women found sewing jobs in free-trade zones. Why did emigration pressure remain so high despite rapid job creation? Are emigration and remittances substitutes for socio-economic reforms, notably in the education system and the labor market? Do remittances, which account for almost 10 percent of the DR's $20 billion GDP, increase or decrease the desire to emigrate?
∑ Hispaniola is a relatively small island shared by peoples with different origins, histories, and languages. The populations of the DR and Haiti are each 8-9 million. Some 500,000 to 800,000 Haitian nationals live in the DR, equivalent to almost 10 percent of Haiti's population. What are the impacts of Haitian immigration on the DR, and on the desire of Dominicans to emigrate?
∑ The DR is simultaneously a country of emigration, transit migration, and immigration. About 1 million Dominican nationals reside now reside abroad, mostly in the United States. The DR is an important transit country for migrants, with many non-Dominicans entering the DR in an effort to reach the US or Europe. Finally, the DR is an immigration country, attracting up to one million Haitian immigrants. Does the DR represent a new era in which middle-income developing countries become destinations for migrants well before their own economically motivated migration stops?
Population and Economy
The Dominican Republic (population 8 million, growing 2.2 percent and projected 12 million in 2025) and Haiti (8 million growing 2.2 percent and projected 11 million in 2025) share the island of Hispaniola, the second largest of the West Indies, comprising 30,000 square miles, about the size of South Carolina, which has 4 million residents. If current population growth continues, about 23 million people, about half the Caribbean population, will live in Hispaniola in 2025.
The DR occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island. Hispaniola is mountainous, with east-west mountains dividing the DR and creating the Cibao, a 140-mile long, 10- to 25-mile wide valley that is the heart of DR agriculture. Columbus landed at its western end about Christmas in 1492. Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, is a city of 2.5 million, almost one-third of DR residents, located on the coastal plain in the south central region of the country.
History. The Caribbean was one of the first areas of the world that was integrated into a global economy, in that, since the late fifteenth century, the Caribbean imported slaves and immigrants to produce tropical crops grown for export. The French and Spanish colonial administrations shared Hispaniola after 1697, and French Haiti became the richest of the West Indies during the 18th century. As of 1800, there were about 500,000 slaves and 75,000 French settlers in Haiti, compared to 40,000 slaves and 10,000 Spanish settlers in the DR. Haitian slaves revolted in 1804, defeated the French colonial government, and occupied all of Hispaniola between 1822 and 1844. Haitian occupation in the DR was harsh. The DR is the only Latin American country that won its independence from an occupying neighbor rather than a distant colonial power. This history has contributed to continuing tension in DR-Haitian relations.
After 1844, the DR experienced a series of strong-man dictators, a brief return to Spanish rule, and achieved full independence in 1865. However, DR dictators ran up large debts to US lenders, and found it necessary to grant the foreign investors economic concessions in exchange for loans to keep them in power. When DR leaders threatened not to repay the loans, the US government intervened between 1916 and 1924 to ensure that the debts to US creditors were paid.
Rafael Trujillo came to power in 1930 and pursued an import-substitution manufacturing strategy. He also controlled two-thirds of DR sugar production, and in 1960, the companies Trujillo and his family controlled employed about 45 percent of DR workers. Trujillo was assassinated in 1961. A leftist, Juan Bosch, was elected president, prompting some emigration by those fearing "communism." Bosch was ousted by the military, and when his friends tried to restore him to power in 1965, the US intervened militarily, and Joaquin Balaguer, who held many positions under Trujillo, was elected president in 1966. Balaguer was president from 1966 to 1978, and he implemented policies favoring his rural supporters and sugar production, which encouraged some urban residents to emigrate. Antonio Guzman's Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) came to power in 1978, but Balaguer was re-elected in 1986, and this time Balaguer favored the development of export-processing zones (maquiladoras) to provide jobs.
Balaguer was accused of preventing a free election in 1994, and served only two years before a new election was held in 1996. It was won by Leonel Fernandez (who grew up in NYC) and the Partido de la Liberacion Dominicana (PLD). In 2000, Hipolito Mejia of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) was elected president. Mejia launched a paquetazo social (social package) in Spring 2001 to improve water, sewer and other services in low-income DR communities—25 percent of DR residents have below-poverty level incomes. Mid-term elections are scheduled for May 2002, and presidential elections in 2004. There are 15 to 20 political parties, with the major parties including the PRD and PLD as well as Balaguer's Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC) and the Bloque Independiente Pena Gomista (BIPG).
Economy. The Dominican Republic had a GDP of $16 billion in 2000, for a per capita GDP of $1,900; Haiti is poorer—its GDP was $4 billion, or $500 per capita. DR's economy is based on agriculture (sugar, coffee), mining (ferro-nickel), textiles and tourism. The DR exported goods worth $6 billion in 2000, and imported goods worth $10 billion; the deficit was covered in part by $1.5 billion earned from services (tourism) and $1.7 billion in remittances, making remittances 10 percent of DR GDP. Manufacturing accounts for 17 percent of GDP, construction and agriculture 13 percent each, and tourism— transport and hotels and restaurants— accounts for 13 percent of GDP. Remittances play a large role in the DR economy; they averaged $1.8 billion a year in the late 1990s.
The Caribbean colonial islands were never self-sufficient in food—arable land was used to produce high-value export crops and food was imported. This pattern continues today: the leading crops in the DR are sugar, coffee, and cocoa. Sugar cane, concentrated in the eastern DR, is the leading crop and export—about 375,000 tons of sugar were produced in 1999 from 4.5 million tons of sugarcane, a smaller than usual crop because of Hurricane Georges in 1998. Coffee production (93,000 tons in 1999) is expanding, while cocoa production (34,000 tons in 1999) is declining. Nickel and gold mining was suspended several times in the late 1990s because of low world prices.
Most residents of Caribbean countries were employed in agriculture until the 1960s, when there was a push to industrialize. Urbanization was rapid—about 60 percent of Caribbean residents were urban in 2000, when the percentage of urban dwellers varied from 34 percent in Haiti to 62 percent in DR and 75 percent in Cuba. As Dominicans migrated to cities, many were replaced in agriculture by migrants from Haiti—over 90 percent of DR's seasonal sugar workers, and two-thirds of the coffee workers, are now Haitians.
One reason why rural-urban migration was so rapid in Caribbean countries was because many of its political leaders were influenced by economist W. Arthur Lewis, winner of the 1979 Nobel prize in economics. Lewis, born in St. Lucia, believed that agriculture held a reservoir of non-productive labor that could be used to industrialize without reducing agricultural output.. In 1954, he wrote an influential article, Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labor, that argued that rapid population growth in rural areas held down workers' wages, and that the only solution was rapid industrialization.
The DR has two manufacturing sectors--domestic and free zone-- with a total of 500,000 employees in 1999. Domestic manufacturing, with 300,000 workers, is dominated by food-processing operations such as grinding sugar cane and the production of non-tradable goods such as cement. "Free zone" refers to fenced-off manufacturing areas where goods are produced for export, and into which imported raw materials and components of the finished products can be brought in free of duty. With 200,000 workers, this sector functions like Mexico's maquiladoras and is dominated by garment manufacturing. A 1990 survey of problems encountered by US firms with free-trade zone operations in DR emphasized the following: (1) lack of reliable electricity supplies; (2) absenteeism and turnover of workers, due in part to inadequate public transportation for workers; and (3) slow and sometimes corrupt customs officials (Kramer, 1990).
About 90 percent of free-zone exports, some $4.8 billion in 2000, are destined for the US; free zone imports were $3.1 billion, for $1.7 billion value-added in the DR in the form of workers' wages and utilities etc. By contrast, nickel exports were worth $140 million; sugar $88 million; tobacco (cigars) $75 million; and cocoa and coffee, about $30 million each. The DR peso was linked to the US dollar until 1985—the current exchange rate is 17 pesos to $1. The Central Bank charges a five percent exchange rate commission, generating funds for the government.
The DR shifted from a "breakfast economy"—producing sugar, coffee, and cacao—in the late 1980s when sugar prices slumped. The government promoted tourism, which expanded rapidly, from 11,000 beds in 1987 to 52,000 beds in 2000, but occupancy reached only 67 percent. Tourism employed 141,000 workers in hotels, bars and restaurants in 1999; the leading resort is Puerto Plata on the north coast. Some 2.1 million foreign tourists arrived in 1999; 57 percent were from Europe, and most stayed in all-inclusive hotels owned by international (Spanish) chains. Another 500,000 Dominicans who live overseas visited the DR in 1999.
The DR government employs 350,000 people in a labor force of four million; 70,000 or 20 percent of government employees were fired when the PRD took power in August 2000. About 30 percent of government revenue comes from tariffs, and another 25 percent from a VAT. Hipolito Mejia became president August 16, 2000; the opposition is expected to gain seats in the 30-member Senate (one seat for each province) and in the 149-member Chamber of Deputies when elections are held on May 16, 2002. The opposition Partido de la Liberacion Dominicana (PLD) is pressing to have ex-president Leonel Fernandez run again in 2004, perhaps in an alliance with the PRSC, which is still dominated by 95-year-old Joaquin Balaguer.
The DR minimum wage varies by type of employer: for private businesses with a capital valued at over RD$500,000, it is RD$3,415 (US$200) a month, while the public minimum wage is about RD$1,200 (US$71) a month. There are deductions for social security and health benefits, but wages up to RD$10,438 ($614) a month or RD$125,256 ($7,368) a year are exempt from income taxes.
The DR has an unequal distribution of income. The World Bank reported that 26 percent of residents—about two million-- were poor in 1998, defined as having an income of less than $2 a day. The World Bank concluded that remittances "do not significantly impact the poor [since] international migration in the DRâ€¦ is mostly a middle class phenomenon and does not play an important role in providing a safety net for the poor or contribute to improvements in equity."
Migration from Hispaniola
Some 3.5 million Caribbean residents immigrated legally to the US between 1820 and 1998, but most of this migration was recent-- half of all Caribbean immigrants were admitted in the 1980s and 1990s. Two-thirds of Dominican immigrants, and three-fourths of Haitian immigrants, arrived since 1980. INS data show that 810,000 Dominicans and 376,000 Haitians have immigrated legally to the US; 90 percent of these were admitted since 1970, including 40 percent who were admitted in the 1990s. About 200,000 Dominican and 75,000 Haitian nonimmigrants a year have been admitted; some 2,500 Dominicans and 500 Haitians a year were deported.
One of the leading experts on Caribbean migration, Anthony Maingot, argues that trade, aid and economic growth will not slow emigration from Haiti and the Dominican Republic because migration from Hispaniola is structural: "the direction of the flow might shift occasionally, and the magnitude might also vary, but [emigration] pressures are constant." (Maingot, 1999, 182). Maingot emphasizes that Caribbean people have often associated manual labor on their home island with slavery, and were eager to go abroad, for example, to build the Panama Canal early in the 20th century. West Indians who migrated to the US have often been very successful, as exemplified by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is descended from Jamaican immigrants. Their success in the US provided anchors for later Caribbean immigrants who followed migration networks from the Caribbean.
Maingot noted that there was little immigration to the US from the DR before the 1965 changes to US immigration laws, when the US family unification system permitted chain migration. Working-class Dominicans migrated to New York in the 1960s and early 1970s, getting factory jobs and establishing small businesses such as grocery stores (bodegas) and remitting money to the DR. The 2000 Census reported that there were 765,000 Dominican-born residents in the US, including 407,000 of New York City, up from 520,000 in the US in 1990, and 333,000 in New York City.
Some Dominicans try to migrate to the US illegally by crossing the 60-mile Mona Channel between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in wooden boats called yolas for smuggling fees of about $600. American Airlines is the major airline between the DR and the US, prompting many in the DR to talk of "going AA" to the US. Those who go legally go AA by air; the illegal route is sometimes called the other "AA" route to the US (agua por delante, agua por detras—water in front, water in back). Once in Puerto Rico, Dominicans often find jobs at higher wages than they could earn in the DR. Others try to pass themselves off Puerto Ricans, who are US citizens, and take domestic flights to the mainland US.
The Dominican Navy and the US Border Patrol cooperate to detect yolas being built in rural areas of the DR, engines as they are transported to power the yolas, and people being taken by bus or truck to board them. During the first nine months of US FY01, almost 4,000 people are believed to have traveled by yola between the DR and Puerto Rico; the number fell sharply after September 11, 2001. DR nationals are well known as experienced smugglers; Cubans and Chinese are also smuggled from the DR to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. This DR Navy-US Border Patrol cooperation is considered very successful—some Dominicans complain that the DR Army is much less successful preventing unauthorized Haitian immigration into the DR than the Navy is in discouraging illegal migration across the Mona Channel.
In addition to emigration from the DR to the US, there is Dominican migration to Spain, the Netherlands and Argentina. In December 2001, there were an estimated 40,000 Dominicans in Spain, including 14,000 unauthorized Dominicans; a migration agreement to formalize Dominican-Spain migration was signed.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share a 186-mile or 330 km border, and the border region is the poorest part of both countries. There has been discussion of joint development projects in the border area. The DR government would like them to be financed by industrial countries that forgive the DR's external debts, and then the DR would instead divert the interest payments on the forgiven debt to a trust fund for border area development. However, cooperative DR-Haiti development is complicated by a troubled history and unauthorized Haitian-DR migration, which is abetted by corrupt elements of the DR military, which is responsible for guarding DR borders.
Historical incidents are recalled frequently. Dominicans recall Haiti's invasion of the Dominican Republic to abolish slavery in 1822; February 27, 1844, DR's Independence day, marks the end of Haitian, not Spanish rule. Haitians recall that, in 1937, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered 17,000 to 30,000 Haitians killed all over the DR by the Dominican army, including at the shallow Río Masacre (Massacre River) that separates DR and Haiti.
The massacres of the 1930s slowed Haitian-DR migration, but it soon resumed because, in the words of Haitian writer Jean Price-Mars, "The density of our population impels the Haitian workers, as if driven by a mechanical force, toward the neighboring land." Anthony Maingot noted that Cuba expelled many Haitian workers in the early 1930s, and that Cuba and DR shared a desire to stay "white," which meant that Haitians were accepted as guest workers but not as settlers. DR leaders often talk of a silent invasion from Haiti, and assert that Haitian immigration threatens the "three pillars" of DR society: Spanish ancestry, Hispanic culture, and Catholicism. The best estimate is that 10 to 12 percent of Dominicans are Black, eight to nine percent are white, and 80 percent are mulatto.
When agriculture in rural Haiti was still viable, and when the major employment for Haitians in the DR was sugar harvesting, Haiti-DR migration was a seasonal phenomenon. However, as agriculture declined in Haiti, more Haitians settled in the DR to work in long-season crops such as coffee and rice, and for small farmers; many Haitians eventually moved to urban areas for construction and service jobs, especially in the informal sector. During the 1999-2000 sugar season, for the first time since 1952, the DR sugar mills being privatized officially recruited no new Haitian workers. However, with the privatization of DR sugar, the recruitment of Haitians has resumed. In December 2001, sugar mills were authorized to recruit Haitians and an estimated 15,000 arrived.
There are 500,000 to 800,000 Haitians in the DR--the World Bank estimated there were 800,000 Haitians in the DR in 1998. However, many politicians speak of 1.1 to 1.5 million Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Most are illegal, prompting periodic crackdowns, including the removal of 15,000 Haitians in 1997. Most Dominicans favor the removal of Haitians: a 1998 Gallup poll found that 45 percent of Dominicans favored deporting illegal Haitians and an additional 17 percent favored repatriating all Haitians, legal or illegal. President Mejía asserted that the Dominican Republic "was experiencing a peaceful invasion of Haitians." His spokesperson said: "That statement has nothing to do with racist sentiments. It's a factâ€¦ The roundupsâ€¦ will continue to be done against illegal immigrants."
Between November 1999 and January 2000, during such a crackdown, the DR deported 2,000 Haitians a month, and thousands of Haitians reportedly returned voluntarily so that they would not have their possessions taken away by Dominican soldiers. Typically, the Dominican military drives through Haitian settlements when the sugar cane cutting season ends in February-March, and loads onto trucks for deportation all those without birth certificates or work permits. After the 2000 crackdown, Dominican farmers and other employers complained of labor shortages—an estimated 50-60 percent of DR construction workers are Haitians, earning $5 to $8 a day.
It is very hard for Haitians and those of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic (Dominoco-Haitians) to get DR documents. The DR constitution provides citizenship to persons born in DR, but not to children born to parents who are "in transit" in the DR; the DR government considers Haitians to be "in transit." The former director of Haitian migration at the Dominican Immigration Department, says "We are not violating their human rights. The constitution says they are in transit. They aren't Dominicans." The result is confusion, with some Haitians obtaining DR papers, allegedly in exchange for supporting particular political parties, and other Haitians unable to obtain them.
The present-day DR government is attempting to relax policy toward Haitians. In July 2001, the DR government announced that it would no longer require students to provide birth certificates to attend school, thus opening both primary and secondary schools to unauthorized Haitian children. This is considered an important step to allow Haitians to help themselves with education, but Vice President and Education Minister Milagros Ortiz Bosch noted that the DR will eventually have to deal properly with Haitians: "Dominican laws already guarantee the right to an education to all children. But if you want to get a job, open a bank account, travel, vote, simply be a citizen, you need a birth certificate."
Thus, there is a debate between those who want to regularize and those who want to remove unauthorized and quasi-authorized Haitians. Many opinion leaders, as well as the World Bank, emphasize that in order to help raise wages for unskilled Dominicans, the influx of unauthorized Haitians must be slowed, and that Haitians settled in the DR should be legalized. The El Caribe newspaper is among those who argue that the DR should do more to prevent illegal Haitian migration. El Caribe in January 2002 argued that "those who employ Haitians, primarily sugar cane mills, rice plantations, coffee plantations, construction engineers, and the military, would make less profit if they had to hire Dominican workers, invest in automation or modernize their harvests." The editorial concludes: "The fact that our governments have favored landholders, engineers and the military over unskilled laborers explains why our politicians talk so much of the presence of Haitians, but do little to confront the situation."
Haiti and the US
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a per capita income of $200 to $500 a year. It was not always so. Haiti was the richest French colony in the late 1700s, and remained richer than the DR in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thus, American diplomats in the 1930s posted to the DR lived in Port-a-Prince, and traveled periodically to the DR.
Beginning in the 1950s, Haiti launched an industrialization program that appeared to achieve some success. For instance, a number of factories were created to produce manufactured goods for export. Dictatorship and corruption led to a popular revolt and the election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president in 1991. Aristide was removed from the presidency by a military coup in 1991, and restored to power, as the result of a US military intervention, in 1994; his term ended in 1995. In 2000, Aristide was re-elected, even though he did not campaign.
The US spent $2 to $3 billion on Haiti in the 1990s, or $2,500 to $3,750 per Haitian--$400 million of this cost was incurred in 1994 to interdict and care for or return about 30,000 Haitians who left the country in boats. US government statements on Haiti often lament: "Haiti must deal with challenges more numerous, complex and deep-rooted than any other nation in the Western Hemisphereâ€¦Haiti has the lowest annual per capita income and the highest child mortality rate; the highest illiteracy rate and the lowest life expectancy age. Haiti's fledgling democracy is a brave attempt to overcome decades of despotism and dictatorship." The Haitian government's revenue comes from taxes on imports and telephone calls as well as foreign aid and $700 million a year in remittances.
The US national interest in Haiti is frequently expressed in terms of preventing unwanted migration: "our clear national interests with respect to Haiti certainly are driven in significant part by the geography of Haiti, its proximity to the southern coast of the United States, the experience of what happened when there is a brutal, repressive regime and Haitians fled Haiti in huge numbers and we were not on humanitarian grounds able to put them back into Haiti. So that very clearly drives our national interest." On December 4, 1997, the New York Times reported that the departing UN troops were: "leaving behind a country nearly as poor, prostrate, and paralyzed as when they stepped in to help."
Between 1991 and 1994, many Haitians fled the country in small boats, aiming for Florida, about 735 miles north, or the Bahamas, about 680 miles north. Some 67,140 Haitian migrants were stopped at sea by the US Coast Guard, including 38,000 in 1992 and 24,000 in 1994. Since then, the number of Haitians intercepted in boats leaving for the US has been about 2,000 a year; the number has been rising in 2002.
Haiti is the most rural country in the Caribbean. Most rural Haitians live in 300-person lakous, clusters of 50-60 houses dominated by extended families. The 30,000 lakous have become progressively poorer as land has been subdivided, and the amount of arable land declined as the number of farms rose—marginal land cleared of trees soon proved too poor to grow crops, and the countryside is undergoing desertification. Desertification in the countryside encouraged many rural residents to move to the capital city, Port-au-Prince, and to emigrate, to the DR, the Bahamas, and the US. Most experts are very pessimistic about a revival of the rural Haitian economy that would lead to stay-at-home development.
Haiti had about 100,000 jobs in maquiladora-type light assembly factories in the early 1990s, but the 1991 coup and subsequent embargo reduced the number to 16,000 by 1996-97. In the early 1980s, maquiladora assembly operations had employed 60,000 workers in mostly Haitian-owned operations, while the DR had only 25,000 maquiladora jobs. Maquiladora employment shrank in Haiti and expanded in the DR, so that DR had 130,000 such jobs in 1990. Haitian politics and its economy are centered in Port-au-Prince, which has 90 percent of government employees.
According to the International Organization for Migration, there are an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 Haitians in the DR, a like number in the US, 60,000 in France, 40,000 in Canada, 40,000 in the Bahamas, and another 40,000 in other Caribbean islands.
At least 10 percent of the nine million persons born in the DR are living in the US. Like Cuban immigrants, Dominicans are concentrated in a few places--60 percent live in New York City. Since 1996, Dominicans who become naturalized citizens abroad may retain their DR nationality, and their children born abroad may retain Dominican nationality. In 1997, the DR enacted legislation allowing Dominicans with dual nationality to vote in DR elections, prompting many Dominicans running for office in the DR to include campaign stops in New York City. In 2004, dual national Dominicans abroad will be able to vote in DR elections by absentee ballot.
According to the Central Electoral Board (JCE), for the May 2002 elections, 4.6 million Dominicans are eligible to vote, including one million who live abroad.
The editor of the El Caribe newspaper believes that allowing and encouraging dual nationality and absentee voting is a mistake. His reasoning is that DR elections tend to be very close, so that dual nationals abroad—who may have a limited interest in the DR—could hold the balance of power. The same reasoning has been used to argue against regularizing Haitians in the DR, and granting DR nationality to Haitians born in the DR.
DR migrants are considered a leading example of transnationalism, a concept used by some scholars to describe persons with connections and loyalties to two societies. Instead of moving from the DR, learning English, and integrating into the US, transnational DR migrants may learn English and integrate, but retain very close business and personal ties to the DR. Since most DR migrants are working class, the DR is often described as transnationalism from below.
One of the leading scholars of Dominican transnationalism is Peggy Levitt. Her book, The Transnational Villagers, is "about how ordinary people are incorporated into the countries that receive them while remaining active in the places they come from, and about how life in sending and receiving countries changes as a result." (p4). Levitt studied Dominicans in Boston, and concluded that migrants from Miraflores, a village near the 100,000-resident city of Bani, had far more impact on the village they left behind than on the city to which they moved. In Boston, they were blue-collar factory and service workers or the owners of small corner grocery stores and other service businesses.
Levitt considers the Dominicans to be transmigrants, and uses transnationalism to describe individuals from one country who maintain ties to two or more countries. Transnationalism has been common for executives and professionals employed by multinationals, governments, and news and other organizations. The new transnationalism is from below, as when unskilled immigrants maintain ties to and participate in life in their villages of origin as well as in their destinations. Levitt emphasizes that transnationalism among unskilled Dominicans from Miraflores:
∑ involves both migrants and non-migrants, who are affected by the remittances and new ideas that return to the village because of emigration
∑ persists because of remittances and "social remittances," new ideas, including new male-female roles
∑ leads to new organizations, including more effective political participation at home because of earnings abroad
∑ increases inequalities or contrasts, pushing some up and others down the socio-economic ladder, depending on access to remittances
There is a dispute among immigration researchers about whether transnationalism today differs in degree (same concept, but cheaper communication and transportation) or kind (a new desire to maintain ties to both countries) from that at the beginning of the 20th century; Levitt concludes there is a difference in kind, that today's transnationalism is different and will persist.
The first Miraflores-to-Boston migrants arrived in the 1950s. Many followed, usually illegally, so that by 1994, 60 percent of households in Miraflores received remittances from the US. Most Miraflores migrants have not fared well economically in Boston. In 1994, half worked part-time in the US, and many were janitors, though 75 percent had become legal immigrants. On the one hand, DR migrants told Levitt how hard they worked—many had two jobs--and spoke of the discipline that regular US work schedules imposed on them—many were accustomed to farm work. On the other hand, some DR migrants were able to take advantage of the US workers' compensation system and claim payments for false injuries, while others made money dealing drugs. The migrants change—especially the children of migrants, who learned English and became aware of their rights under US child-abuse laws, enabling them to achieve far more independence from their families in the US than they would have in the DR. Miraflores-to-Boston migration also affected Miraflores residents who did not migrate, as new ideas were introduced by return visits.
Levitt emphasizes that, when parents leave their children to be raised by relatives in the DR, family life becomes a fluid affair, with "multiple mothers" often leading to confusion among children. She contrasts life in Miraflores, where children and adults often spend the day together, with life in Boston, where children may see immigrant parents with two jobs only rarely. The same pessimistic tone surrounds the discussion of schooling. Migration has accentuated differences and rivalries among children in school in Miraflores, and led many not to study hard because they plan to emigrate. Levitt paints a picture of those in Miraflores living off remittances from Boston, or of dreaming of working in Boston for high wages, and concludes that remittances and hopes of emigrating lie behind the refusal of men to work in DR agriculture—Haitians do the farm work in Miraflores. Parents rank their migrant children by how much and how often they send home remittances, and even those without migrant relatives seem to know who made money in the US working and who made money dealing drugs.
Levitt reports that Dominican prejudices against Blacks seemed to become stronger after a stint in the US. While in Boston, migrants had little interaction with US Blacks because the social networks they relied on to find work and housing were dominated by Dominicans. Many Dominicans in Boston equated US Blacks with Haitians, who are generally looked down on in the DR. Returned migrants became much less tolerant of bribes and corruption in the DR, such as police stops that required payment of a bribe, or charges for government forms or benefits.
Emigration increased migrant incomes, which strengthened the role of migrants in DR politics and community development. In many cases, migrants were surprised to get benefits from the US government without paying bribes, and some who returned wanted to clean up DR politics and governments, but were usually unsuccessful. Migrants who were used to getting social services from the church in Boston had to learn to contribute there, as well as to request benefits. Finally, the migrants in Boston created a Miraflores Development Corporation to improve the infrastructure at home, relying on migrant contributions to fully or partially fund bridges, parks, and clinics at home in a process that was "in sharp contrast to the corruption and inefficiencies pervading Dominican life." However, the MDC was not able to create the jobs or economic structure that would make additional migration unnecessary.
Levitt concludes that most of the migrants from Miraflores in Boston are oriented to their village of origin, not the US. Their US incomes give them more influence at home, but they remain fairly isolated and invisible in the US. The decisions of the migrants' children about which society they choose to identify with is likely to shape the course of DR-US migration. Transnationalism is a very mixed blessing in this case—it certainly helped some individuals, but did not set in motion changes in Miraflores that make migration self-stopping. Indeed, many of the changes set in motion by migration are likely to lead to more migration from Miraflores. The structure of the Caribbean family—with many women having children with different fathers, each of whom tries to contribute to the support of his children—made many rural families dependent on an often absentee breadwinner, and thus social mores seemed to support continued emigration.
Between 1952 and 1966, Haitian-DR migration for sugarcane production was regulated by a bilateral agreement that was renewed informally between 1966 and 1983-84. During the 1990s, as Haiti-DR migration rose, there were more complaints about the treatment of Haitians in the DR from NGOs as well as the Haitian government. Haiti and the DR established a migration commission, which has met six times between 1996 and 2002 and reached three agreements:
∑ a June 1998 Memorandum of Understanding that laid out the goals of the bilateral discussions, viz., to reach agreement on the management of migration flows, contracting, repatriation, regularization, and unauthorized migration.
∑ A December 1999 agreement that called for reforms such as repatriation only during daytime hours, removals of families as groups, and the designation of four specific border points or crossings for repatriations
∑ A March 2001 agreement on labor contracting includes arrangements for Haitians to legally enter the DR if they have job offers. to obtain documentation of their nationality from the Haitian embassy. In January 2002, the DR and Haitian governments agreed that each country would provide documentation to its nationals in the other country. This allows Haitian consulates to issue Haitian documents at no charge to Haitian adults in the DR who bring along two witnesses to testify that the person seeking documents is Haitian. Haiti is also reducing the cost of a Haitian passport from $70 to $35 for Haitians in the DR.
Most Haitian migrants in the DR are men from rural areas whose first Dominican jobs are in agriculture or construction. Traditionally, 15,000 to 25,000 Haitians a year were recruited and often smuggled to work in the DR as sugar cane cutters, but Haitian migrants have spread to other sectors of DR agriculture, including rice and coffee.
According to the DR government, there are about 2,000 Haitians lawfully resident in the DR, and another 2,000 Haitians have been recognized as refugees. What should be done about the other 500,000 to 800,000 Haitians living in the DR? IOM and many migration experts recommend regularization or legalization followed by a guest worker program. Their hope is that legal status would facilitate the integration of settled Haitians in the DR, and that a guest worker program would divert the fees that now go to smugglers to governments which would use them to promote development.
Trafficking and Smuggling
The DR is a major source of trafficked women. The tradition of emigrating for work, and the recruitment of maids for foreign jobs, helped to make going abroad for sex work more acceptable than it would otherwise be. Indeed, many Dominican families and communities reportedly accept emigration for prostitution, and women who return with money earned from prostitution abroad are reportedly considered successes at home.
Most women incur debts of several thousand dollars to go to Europe, the Dutch Antilles, and more recently Argentina and Costa Rica as prostitutes. To combat the trafficking of women, the Dominican Government tries to screen women going abroad. Policies to combat the trafficking of women abroad include a rule that women traveling abroad alone must have at least $1,000. IOM and the Dominican State Secretariat for Women are working on an information campaign to warn women of the dangers of prostitution, and to press for legislation that would penalize traffickers. Penalties on convicted traffickers are relatively light. In February 2002, a 30-year old DR woman convicted of trafficking young Dominican girls to Costa Rica, taking away their passports, and sexually exploiting them was sentenced to five years in prison in Costa Rica.
The INS cooperates with DR immigration authorities to reduce illegal immigration by air to the US, while the Coast Guard cooperates with the Dominican Navy to reduce the smuggling of migrants across the Mona passage to Puerto Rico.
US Consulate Visit
The US consulate in Santo Domingo is the third busiest American consulate, after Mexico and the Philippines. It handles about 45,000 immigrant and 100,000 non-immigrant visa applications a year, and houses representatives of federal agencies that provide benefits such as Social Security payments to those who earned them while in the US— some 6,000 Social Security checks are distributed in the DR each month.
About 98 percent of DR immigrants arriving lawfully in the US to live have obtained visas under family unification criteria. The 1996 immigration reforms added criteria for the granting of such visas, including the criterion that the US sponsor of immigrants must earn at least 125 percent of the US poverty line for the US sponsor and the immigrants being sponsored taken together. Since many Dominicans in the US have low incomes, it is hard for them to satisfy this 125 percent income criterion. In such cases, the US consulate accepts applications for immigrant visas, but does not grant the visa until the income and other criteria are satisfied. About 35 percent of the applicants receive immigrant visas the first time they apply.
There is also a 60 percent rejection rate for nonimmigrant visas, which are typically requests for tourist visas to visit friends and relatives in the US. US law requires applicants for nonimmigrant visas to prove that they do not intend to immigrate to the US, that they plan to return to the DR, which means that they generally need to prove they have employment and/or assets in the DR.
To apply for US visas, applicants pay application fees at local banks and are given appointment times. While standing at windows in front of US consular officers, they are interviewed. Consular officers are expected to conduct four immigrant visa interviews an hour, 25 in a six-hour day. During their interviews, applicants are expected to produce the documentation needed to secure the visa for which they are applying.
Consular officers believe there is a great deal of fraud in applications for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. For example, many US sponsors claim non-existent family ties to the Dominicans they are sponsoring, so the consular officer may require additional information, such as a blood test paid for by the applicant, to prove a family tie. Many applicants present "false proof" of DR employment and assets. Document fraud is common in the DR. The DR is the birthplace of 25 percent of major league baseball players, and many young DR players present fraudulent birth certificates that make them appear to be one to three years younger than they are, and hence more attractive to US teams.
Free Zone Manufacturing
Some 195,000 workers are employed in DR free trade zone factories, and most sew garments—the DR is well-known for producing pants. The San Pedro de Macoris FTZ is a 25-year old collection of 100 factories operated by 50 firms that employ about 15,000 workers— it is the economic lifeblood of San Pedro, which is one hour east of Santo Domingo.
Western International Trading is a 25-year old, 500-employee sewing operation that makes uniforms for US firms such as McDonalds. Workers are guaranteed at least RD$2,490 a month, but most work for piece rate wages— they are paid according to the number of units they sew—and earnings for a 44-hour week average RD$3,200 to 4,000 a month ($188 to $235). In addition, employers must contribute 7.5 percent for social security and workers 2.3 percent, and the DR is gradually adding other benefits, including Unemployment Insurance. Many FTZs have cafeterias that offer employees subsidized meals, such as lunch for 9 pesos.
The sewing-based FTZs are under threat from increased foreign competition. Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, Mexico has replaced the DR as the chief source of pants in the US market. However, the real threat in the eyes of FTZ managers is China, which can more cheaply produce many of the garments and shoes now produced in the DR. Several shoe firms have already closed their operations in the DR and moved production to China, and the fear that more FTZ firms will do so.
Under World Trading Organization rules, FTZs that allow the import of machinery and materials and the export of finished goods must be phased out by 2005-07. The FTZs, facing the threat of Chinese entry into the WTO—is seeking two major paths to protection:
∑ Make the DR more than a sewing country by upgrading machines and operating them more hours to cover the cost of more expensive capital, and move from sewing garments to more electronics and higher value-added products. The challenge to make such an up-wage move is to find trained workers—the DR has one of the poorest education systems in Latin America, and its teachers are frequently on strike.
∑ Get the DR included in NAFTA or a possible Central American free-trade agreement with Canada and the US. One FTA association has agreed to spend $200,000 to have a US lobbying firm try to get NAFTA privileges extended to the DR. The US and 33 other Western Hemisphere nations (all except Cuba) are committed to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005.
The FTZs have done more than create jobs. One leader said that they have fundamentally changed the role of women in the DR. Most FTZ employees are women from rural areas, and their movement to cities in which they have jobs that pay above average wages has empowered them.
Bateys, Haitians, and Sugar
There are some 250,000 residents of bateys in the DR, of which 55-65 percent are Haitians. The Haitians in the bateys are older—an estimated 70 percent are older than 40, and 60 percent have lived in the batey over 10 years . Bateys were originally company-constructed housing for year-round and seasonal employees of sugarcane plantations. As the work force changed from Dominicans to Haitians and conditions in Haiti deteriorated, more Haitians began to live year-round in the DR in bateys. Most bateys have some electricity and some have schools to educate the children among the 300-1,000 residents of the batey.
The batey visited in March 2002 had about 450 residents, half of whom were Dominicans. There was barracks-style housing for solo men who cut cane—five to a room. In addition, there was family housing that consisted of tin-covered shacks. Water was obtained from several fountains, some of the shacks received electricity by tapping into the main lines, and sewage flowed openly between the shacks. There was a school built several years ago with US AID funds, but it has never opened. Unicef had a small operation dispensing medicines.
The DR economy has traditionally been based on sugar production. A visit to a sugar mill that was built in 1885 and last upgraded in the 1950s showed an abundance of old machinery and overstaffing. Mill jobs were traditionally given to workers who supported the winning political party, and the FTZ managers said that the workers earned less than those employed in FTZ factories, about RD$2,500 a month compared to RD$3,200 to RD$4,000, but the mill workers also worked less.
The mill was privatized in 1999, and leased to Grupo Consuelo, a corporation which operates five other mills, and remains the property of the DR government. Grupo Consuelo, which has pledged to upgrade the mill's technology, grinds about 300,000 tons of sugar cane a year in this mill that is produced from 15,000 hectares of cane, so that yields are about 20 tons a hectare, or eight tons an acre—Florida sugar cane yields, by contrast, are 35-40 tons an acre. The usual conversion ratio of cane to sugar is 12 percent—this mill had an eight percent cane to sugar yield, which Grupo Consuelo raised to 10 percent by automating temperature controls in the furnaces and replacing outmoded equipment. The mill's "raw" sugar is refined, and some of it is exported to the US.
Most sugar cane is cut by hand. The piece rate for cutting cane in March 2002 was RD$45 a ton ($2.60 a ton), and the Haitian migrants who cut most of the cane average two to three tons a day. In addition to cutting the cane, cutters must load it unto field carts that are pulled by tractors to a transfer station, where the cane is stacked by hand into rail cars or trucks to be taken to the mill for grinding.
DR Government Perspectives
Several DR government leaders termed Haiti a "failed" or "disintegrated" state. Some argue that the industrial democracies are imposing on the DR the burden of dealing with the emigration that results from Haiti's collapse. There was no sense that DR government management of Haitian migration was optimal, but there was also little agreement on what to do about Haiti. DR President Mejia and Vice President Ortiz have endorsed birthright citizenship to Haitians born in the DR, but birthright citizenship is opposed by rightist DR politicians.
The DR government favors the restoration of aid to Haiti with no conditions. It believes that the best long-run policy would be for the US to allow the $100 million a year that the DR pays in interest on its foreign debt to be diverted to a new Hispaniola Fund that would promote development along the DR-Haiti border.
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