The announcement of the strict application of a series of barriers to undocumented workers in the Dominican Republic left thousands of Haitians in suspense since Wednesday, as well as the companies that employ these immigrants.
The Dominican Government granted a period of three months for companies to comply with labor and immigration laws, especially the norm that establishes that 80% of the workforce must be Dominican, a provision that has been in force since 1992, but that until now has been dead paper.
The announcement, made on Tuesday night, caused alarm mainly in agriculture and civil construction, sectors in which a large part of the workforce is made up of Haitian immigrants in an irregular situation.
The decision takes place in parallel, in addition, to the migratory crisis unleashed throughout the continent as a result of the exodus that Haitians living in Chile and Brazil are leading to the southern border of the United States, and while Haiti is submerged in its most serious crisis in a decade.
The Association for the Construction and Promotion of Housing (Acoprovi) told Efe today that it supports the efforts to regularize workers. However, it understands that if the measures are not accompanied by facilities and flexibility in the processes, they may not be appropriate at a time of economic recovery, putting the stability of a market as competitive as the construction sector at stake.
The Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor on the island of Hispaniola, is one of the main destinations for Haitian emigrants, who have taken over many jobs rejected by Dominicans, especially in agriculture and construction.
29% of construction workers in the Dominican Republic are Haitians, as are 28% of those employed in agriculture, according to a study published last year by the National Institute for Migration (INM) and the World Organization for Migration. Migration (IOM).
According to Acoprovi estimates, foreign labor reaches 60% in the first stage of building construction, but that percentage drops in the finishing phase, which requires a higher level of qualification.
However, in any residential building under construction in the Dominican capital, the only language you hear spoken among the workers is Creole.
AGRICULTURE WITH IMMIGRANTS
The panorama is very similar in the countryside, where 95% of the peons are Haitians, according to Manuel Matos, director of the Association of Agricultural Producers of the San Juan Valley, one of the most thriving agricultural regions in the country, told Efe.
Matos assured that “never” will the limit of 20% of foreign workers established by law be met, because Dominican day laborers have gone to the towns to work as motorcycle taxi drivers, despite the fact that wages in the fields are even “higher” than those paid in the city.
Producers in the area, says Matos, defend that the Government carry out a regularization process, so that Haitians do not have the risk “of being arrested every time they go out on the street” and the farmer is not left without workforce.
However, the provisions announced on Tuesday by the Government contemplate increasing controls and applying sanctions to businessmen who fail to comply with the regulations after three months of grace granted to carry out the regularization.
The Dominican authorities also announced that they will prevent pregnant women over six months from entering the country, to prevent them from overloading the public health system.
The coordinator of the #HaitianosRD collective, Roudy Joseph, told Efe that, with these measures, the Government tries to use the Haitian community as a “scapegoat” for the criticism it receives for the lack of security or public health.
“This will generate more stigmatization, it is a dangerous path, because not only women who enter will be persecuted but those who are here. This borders on fascism,” he said.
These measures are in addition to the plans of the Dominican President, Luis Abinader, to begin before the end of the year the construction of a border fence, with which he intends to stop irregular migration, drug trafficking, smuggling and vehicle theft.