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Leader of Brooklyn’s Roman Catholics condemns deportation crisis in Dominican Republic

Bishop DiMarzio Reminds Gathering of 700 That Both Hispaniola Nations Are Catholic, Existed Peacefully

June 25, 2015 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio gives the blessing at the conclusion of Mass. Standing with him are Deacon Yvon Aurelien and Deacon Jose Enriquez, natives of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, respectively. Eagle photos by Francesca Norsen Tate

More than 700 people attended a special Mass of Solidarity and Unity for the Haitian and Dominican communities Wednesday night at St. James Cathedral-Basilica. The mission was to unite these two growing communities in Brooklyn at a time when their native countries are experiencing strife.

The Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, reading in Haitian, Spanish and English, pointed out that the purpose of the Mass was to bring together Brooklyn’s Haitian and Dominican communities in prayer. He added at the beginning of his sermon that the liturgy’s purpose was not to enter a political discussion but rather to pray for peace and justice for the two largely Catholic nations that share the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea.

Commemorating the feast day of St. John the Baptist, which falls annually on June 24, Bishop DiMarzio said that this saint, six months older than Jesus, prophesized fearlessly for peace and justice and was executed by King Herod for calling his marriage evil.

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The bishop then provided an overview of the deportation crisis involving Haitians who were born in and worked in the Dominican Republic.

“Tonight we gather as the Haitian and Dominican communities in the Diocese of Brooklyn, to pray in solidarity for the current situation that has developed in the Dominican Republic, where Haitians have lived for over a century in peace with their Dominican brothers and sisters.”

Documents from the AFL-CIO, the Huffington Post and the Inter-American Council of Human Rights explain that from 1929 to 2010, all children born in the Dominican Republic were granted citizenship under the national constitution. A limited exception was made for those born to diplomats or parents who were “in transit.”

However, in 2004, Dominican officials began an aggressive campaign to insist that all Haitian immigrants were “in transit,” even those who had been in the country for decades. Then, in September 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court rescinded the birth-citizenship right, essentially rendering Haitians born in the Dominican Republic, particularly those who were undocumented or otherwise unable to prove that their parents are Dominican noncitizens.

“The recent ruling by the Court also affected those who were undocumented, which is very similar to the situation we face in our own country,” DiMarzio said. “These are undocumented workers who were welcome to seek work, and who found work in a country that needed their labor. And now that same country wishes to expel them. More serious yet is the problem of rescinding citizenship based on the rule of being born in the country. Giving a comparison from U.S. policy whereas being born here gives citizenship, DiMarzio said, “The same law in the Dominican Republic was in effect until now when it was rescinded, and now they must have the bloodbirth of those who are already Dominican citizens. So, it is necessary for anyone who has Dominican citizenship; they must be born to Dominican parents.”

He contrasted this with the church’s teaching on immigration. “This has been the mind of the church that migrants must be offered citizenship after fulfilling the civil requirements of the land to which they have migrated and in which they work. Rescinding citizenship has caused a long and civil outcry against the seemingly unjust law throughout most of the world.”

Bishop DiMarzio selected Deacon Yvon Aurelien, a native of Haiti, to proclaim the gospel at the liturgy. Deacon Jose Enriquez of the Dominican Republic, who also served, will be ordained this Saturday as a priest for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

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