Supporters of the Dominican government have been reacting loudly to reports about the humanitarian crisis on Hispaniola, and I’ve partaken in a few back and forths on Twitter with some of these advocates, including the ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the United Kingdom, a very active Twitter user.
There’s a lot to say about the Dominican government’s PR response to the crisis — including that the Dominican Republic has hired high-end DC lobbyists — but I do want to say from the outset that some of my Twitter exchanges with Dominican activists have been fruitful.
Nevertheless, I want to zero in on one of my exchanges that casts serious doubt on a key fact in the Dominican ambassador to the United States’ letter to the editor in the New York Times today.
In the letter, Ambassador José Tomás Pérez claims that, “We [The Dominican government] are working with the International Organization for Migration and have registered over 350,000 people.” He also writes, “The reality is that in 2015 hundreds of thousands of people will have documentation and rights in our country that in 2013 they did not have.”
These numbers seemed very high to me, so I asked the ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the U.K. and another Dominican activist with whom I’ve been tweeting where this number comes from.
I got the following response:
— Loren Duran (@LorenD4) July 10, 2015
It turns out that the lion’s share of the 350,000 figure comes from the 288,486 people who fall under the “National Regularization Plan Decree 327-13.” A little research reveals that this figure refers to the number of people who have applied for legal status. In fact, one report notes that a Dominican official “warned that registry [under decree 327-13] doesn’t mean that a foreigner’s file is complete, ‘so that we’re clear on that.'”
I asked the Dominican ambassador the UK about that, and I got this response:
@georgelouisalt approval takes time. Those in process have been given the means to prove their papers are under way. They are staying safely
— Federico Cuello (@fcuello) July 10, 2015
The Dominican ambassador to the U.S. was therefore taking some significant liberties when he claimed in the New York Times that more than 350,000 people have been “registered.”
The vast majority of these people have only begun the process of obtaining legal status, which in many cases was stripped from them in 2013. With the difficulty many of these people will face in obtaining documents and reports of intimidation and Dominican officials not following the law, there is absolutely no guarantee these people will be able to stay legally in the Dominican Republic.