Tens of thousands of people face possible deportation from the Dominican Republic in what Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday called a racist act by the country's government. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Mayor Bill de Blasio stood next to activists and elected leaders with roots in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in Washington Heights on Sunday to push the Dominican Republic to change its policy toward people of Haitian descent.
"It's clearly an illegal act, it is an immoral act, it is a racist act by the Dominican government," De Blasio said. "And it's happening because the people are black."
Human rights activists fear the government of the Dominican Republic could deport tens of thousands of people. Thousands waited in line this past week hoping to show documentation to legalize their status but the deadline came and went Wednesday and the foreign minister announced those without proof of residency should leave.
"This is not acceptable. We who are living in 2015 we have to get together to resolve this basic human rights issue," said City Councilman Mathieu Eugene.
Haitians make up the biggest group of foreigners in the Dominican Republic, about a half million. The two countries share the island and migrant workers are now in hiding. But as many as 200,000 people born in the DR of parents who were undocumented are in danger of expulsion. In 2013, a government tribunal stripped them of citizenship.
"You have two generations of Haitians who are really Dominicans who know nothing but the DR who only speak Spanish," said State Senator Jose Peralta.
Human Rights Watch stood with city officials calling for the Dominican Republic to avoid an humanitarian crisis, restore citizenship to those who deserve it and to conform to international deportation protocols.
Outside the news conference a handful of demonstrators supporting the Dominican Republic protested.
"I have family there and i support their decision," said one supporter.
There are more than 400,000 New Yorkers born in the Dominican Republic and more than 100,000 New Yorkers born in Haiti.
"So this hits home powerfully for us," De Blasio said.
Moving forward, the mayor hopes international condemnation will force change in the government policies in the Dominican Republic. If not, he says economic pressure will mount.