Detained by Dominican immigration officials in February 2001, Lucía François was not allowed to collect her two youngest children, ages four and six, before being deported from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. When Human Rights Watch interviewed her six months later, she had still not seen nor spoken to them. Unable to return to the Dominican Republic, where her children were born, and with no possibility of telephone contact, François was totally cut off from her two girls. “I haven’t been able to talk to anyone from home,” François told Human Rights Watch. “I don’t know if they’re dead or alive . . . . Every day, when I wake up, I’m thinking about my kids.”
David Pere Martínez, deported from the Dominican Republic that same month, faced a similar situation. Martínez was not just separated from his family, however, he was also sent to a country that he did not know, and whose language he did not speak.
While François was born in Haiti, Martínez was born in the Dominican Republic and was therefore a Dominican citizen under the country’s constitution. Indeed, Martínez’s parents and grandparents were born in the country. But the Dominican military officials who detained Martínez had little interest in ascertaining where he was born. They looked instead to the color of his skin, which is black, and decided to deport him to Haiti.
Over the past decade, the Dominican government has deported hundreds of thousands of Haitians to Haiti, as well as an unknown number of Dominicans of Haitian descent. On several occasions, most recently in November 1999, the Dominican authorities have conducted mass expulsions of Haitians and Dominico-Haitians, rounding up thousands of people in a period of weeks or months and forcibly expelling them from the country. Snatched off the street, dragged from their homes, or picked up from their workplaces, “Haitian-looking” people are rarely given a fair opportunity to challenge their expulsion during these wholesale sweeps. The arbitrary nature of such actions, which myriad international human rights bodies have condemned, is glaringly obvious.
The country’s daily flow of deportations follows a similar pattern. Suspected Haitians are targeted for deportation based on the color of their skin, and are given little opportunity to prove their legal status or their claim to citizenship. As a rule, people facing deportation from the Dominican Republic have no chance to contact their families, to collect their belongings, or to prepare for departure in any way. They are frequently dropped off at the Haitian border within a matter of hours after their initial detention, sometimes with nothing more than the clothes on their back.
The summary procedures in use during these deportations fall far short of the due process requirements of international law, specifically those outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the American Convention on Human Rights. The race-ba