Haiti Haitian American

NYC Mayor De Blasio Host Press Conference to Discuss Humanitarian Situation in the DR

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Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, and Councilman Antonio Reynoso, right, in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan on Sunday. Brian Harkin for The New York Times
Mayor Bill de Blasio went to Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan on Sunday to talk about international relations. In New York, many Dominican leaders have stood in solidarity with Haitian leaders.

Here is the mayor’s speech and a question from the press.

I want to thank everyone who is standing with me today. I want to thank everyone gathered here in this important place in our city, a city that speaks to the fight for justice and is one of the touchstones of our memory of what it is to call out injustice. And so, this is a fitting place for us to gather.

It is a deeply troubling moment in the Dominican Republic. The government is fundamentally undermining the rights of the people of not just the Dominican Republic – the people of Haiti, the people of that island they share. In defying our common sense of humanity, this is an affront to our values – our shared values as human beings. In the coming months, hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian decent could be torn from their home, torn from everything they know, forced [inaudible] across the border into Haiti.

And for so many of these people, the Dominican Republic is the place they’ve known as home. Not just in this generation – in many cases, for several generations. This is an affront on so many levels and it is inhumane on so many levels. It is clearly an illegal act. It is an immoral act. It is a racist act by the Dominican government. And it’s happening because these people are black. And it cannot be accepted.

I call on the government of the Dominican Republic to cease these expulsions immediately, to end the detentions of innocent people, and to stop the cultivation of fear. We have to see this policy as fear mongering on a grand scale by a government. We’ve seen that before in history. We have to call it out and stop it every time we see it. We know how horrific the results have been in the past when this type of fear mongering goes unchecked.

The Dominican government must restore the fundamental rights of citizenship and all other fundamental rights to Dominicans of Haitian descent. This is an issue that has united New Yorkers. It has united people of all backgrounds. It has united people from the Dominican community and the Haitian community alike. I want to talk about some of the people gathered here with me, and thank them.

He continued with, 

So many people are here in solidarity, feeling the pain of events so close by, in geographical terms and in cultural terms, our connection to an island that the Dominican Republic and Haiti share – our connection is tremendously deep in this city. We feel those actions there as if they were happening in here. You know there is over 400,00 New Yorkers who were born in the Dominican Republic, and over 100,000 New Yorkers who were born in Haiti. So, this hits home powerfully for us and is so important to say – as we must say in so many circumstances in the globe – our opposition today is to the policies of the Dominican Republic, to that government’s policies, not to the people of the Dominican Republic who we hold so dear, who are our neighbors in every sense and who are such a core part of the life of this city.

This would not be the first time, brothers and sisters, that we have seen a good people have a government that made many mistakes and made decisions that didn’t reflect the values of the people as a whole. There are a lot of people right now in the Dominican Republic who are afraid, who feel powerless, who feel unable to speak for themselves. It is our job to speak for Dominicans of Haitian descent. It is our job to stand up for them and to encourage those all over the globe to do the same. There has been an outcry from the international community and for those who have no yet weighed in, the time is now. Leaders all over the world need to speak at this moment.

People are being targeted simply because of their skin color and who they are and it has to end. And remember, for many people, this is about a heritage that the last time a member of their family lived in Haiti was one or two generations ago. That’s how pernicious this policy is. There is a danger that as many as 200,000 people could be expelled and it has to stop now. When something like this happens and it goes unchecked – it’s like a cancer that spreads to other places. That’s why it’s so important to remember injustice, anywhere, cultivates further injustice. That’s why such a broad coalition has stood together. And it’s my belief that governments that would take such an action are vulnerable to the powerful rebuke of the international community. The Dominican government must understand that they are being watched by people all over the world right now. Their deplorable actions are visible for all to see and there will be such horrible ramifications if they don’t stop now. We pray that this mistake will be corrected right now as an example to the world of the fact that we will stand in the way of any injustice, and we will move to a community of equality and justice for all, which we commit ourselves to everyday, here, in this city.

Question from the Press:

Hi, Mayor. International rebuke, of course, would be effective, but are you looking at any sort of economic sanctions or boycotting them – anything that would be a little stronger armed?

Mayor: I think the rebuke is extraordinary and is happening from all over the world – obviously, the United Nations is involved as well. And I believe the Dominican government literally has a matter of days to change course before you’ll start to see other consequences. It’s unimaginable to me that a lot of Americans, for example, are going to want to travel to the Dominican Republic if this issue is unresolved. And it’s unimaginable that people are going to want to have conferences and conventions, and that a lot of us who normally would be working closely with the Dominican government will feel comfortable doing so in this atmosphere. So, my hope is that with these strong voices from around the world, we’ll see change quickly. Otherwise, I think that will be the time to talk about other consequences. And I think some of them will just start to happen very naturally.

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