Dominican Republic immigrants form the bulk of immigrants from the Caribbean. These immigrants are willing to lose their lives as they seek greener pastures.
The Dominican Republic is located in the Island of Hispaniola together with Haiti. The former is located on the West of the island. A census carried out shows that the Dominican Republic has on average 5.5milliton people. Its largest source of revenue is tourism followed closely by remittances from Dominicans settled in the Diaspora especially the United States (Torres& Herna%u0301ndez 1998 p. 12) Large part of the country’s GDP also comes from the sugarcane industry in the country.
In the 1980s, immigration from, the Dominican Republic to the United States grew to uncommonly high levels.
The history of the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries` migration show how fast the country can change from being a country of immigration to being one of emigration. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Caribbean basin nations constituted one of the leading destinations for European immigrants. Millions of Europeans especially from southern Europe moved from their countries of origin to settle in the Latin American including the Dominican Republic. However, by the 1980s and 90s the trend reversed and Latin American immigrants to Europe and the rest of the world has increased by alarming numbers.
Maritime undocumented migration from the Caribbean Basin has been a common phenomenon. However, there has been an increase in the illegal immigrants mainly due to worsening economic conditions in the country of origin and the increase of technology, what allows the smugglers to operate smoothly across the sea. The number if undocumented immigrants’ trying to get into the United States from the Caribbean is one that cannot be ignored (Torres& Herna%u0301ndez 1998 p. 34). Research carried out shows that approximately 50000 immigrants were trying to get into the United States from the Caribbean Basin. This number includes those from the Dominican Republic. In the year 2007, approximately 6000 immigrants were interdicted while trying to cross over into the United States via the sea. Approximately the same numbers of people made it over the sea and were able to blend in with the Americans. Besides, over 10000 immigrants from the Caribbean Basin tried to use other means to get into the country via the sea routes in Mexico. Unknown number of people dies every year attempting to get into the US from the Caribbean Basin. This is due to the attempt to cross the sea with poorly constructed boats, which may sink, causing the undocumented immigrants to simply disappear.
Undocumented maritime immigrants from the Dominican Republic
Over history, the Dominican Republic has been a leading source for undocumented immigrants into the United States. This may be due to the somewhat shorter distance into the country as compared to other countries in the Caribbean Basin. It is just about 40 nautical miles form the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico transversely through the Mona Passage. The fact that the Dominican Republic is not an impoverished state, the prevailing currents and the sea state make a large percentage of undocumented maritime migration through smuggling (Torres& Herna%u0301ndez 1998 p. 54). In the past, the Dominican Republic has been the largest source of illegal immigrants into the U S from all over the world. Approximately, the number of immigrants coming from the country totaled to 40% of the total immigrants from all over the world. Unlike the illegal immigrants from Haiti, the immigrants from the Dominican Republic are smuggled into Puerto Rico through extraordinarily well organized smuggling rings. These smugglers use small sized, low freeboard boats known as “Yolas”. These Yolas are able to carry up to 250 immigrants across the Mona Pass. The smuggling often takes place at night, so at to avoid detection from the officials located at the coast. Yolas are big motorized rowboats intended for fast, sneaky transportation across the Mona Pass. Usually, smugglers may overload the Yola making it extremely dangerous for the people aboard. If a Yola is intercepted along the Mona Pass, undocumented Dominican immigrants are sent back home within 24 hours of interdiction. Sometimes a Yola may capsize, and immigrants could be eaten by sharks. Other times, crooked smugglers may force undocumented immigrants to jump into the sea for no reason at all.
As the political and economic situation becomes worse in the Carribean Basin, undocumented immigration is bound to rise (Torres& Herna%u0301ndez 1998 p. 57). The number of immigrants attempting to get into the United States via Puerto Rico varies based on innuendo, environmental conditions or even rumors. Unlike migration on land, migration by sea comes with many challenges to both the law enforcement agencies and illegal immigrants. To the immigrants, transportation by sea is slow and extremely risky, what makes injury and death a common phenomenon. The enormous nature of the sea makes it difficult for the law enforcement agency to monitor the ports and borders closely. This somewhat comes as an advantage to the undocumented immigrants since it presents an opportunity to get into the United States unnoticed.
The route to get to Puerto Rico is costly and dangerous. Undocumented Dominicans pay approximately 500 US dollars each to get smuggled across the Mona Pass. The journey starts at the East coast of the Dominican Republic through the Mona Pass and into Puerto Rico. A great number of immigrants choose to stay in Puerto Rico and work in the firms there. This reduces the chances of being caught as undocumented immigrants cross the state borders. However, other undocumented immigrants choose to risk and head to New York, where there are a large number of illegal immigrants of Dominican origin.
Maritime Migration: Threats and Tactics
Maritime migration is constantly evolving, what makes it an even bigger threat. Desperate immigrants are constantly looking for ways to move into the U S no regardless of how risky they may be. Advancement in technology in sea transport and the increase in commercial transport across the Caribbean made undocumented maritime immigration an even graver threat to the US law enforcement agencies.
Maritime immigration is categorized into two types:
This form of maritime migration is often ad hoc and disorganized. Often the smugglers lack an organized means of transport. In the past, the smugglers used a form of sea transportation known as “Rustica”. They were undersized coastal sailboats or freighters filled with immigrants (Torres& Herna%u0301ndez 1998 p. 45). They also used rafts as a means of transportation, which were even more risky to use. Both these means were overloaded with immigrants and had no means of navigation apart from the eyes of the smugglers. They also had no life saving equipment in case of an accident. The people on the raft or Rustica were at the mercy of the weather conditions and the sea.
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This is the second form of undocumented maritime migration. This form of smuggling has been on the rise due to the proliferation of sophisticated technology in the sea transportation. The smugglers are now able to use speed bots, which, have navigational equipment making it a lesser risk to get to Puerto Rico as compared to humanitarian smuggling. The smugglers are usually well organized into groups and have links to criminal networks in the country of emigration. They also have financial support from criminal organizations who may be dealing with human trafficking.
Social economic background of Dominican Immigrants
Research carried out shows that most of the Dominican migrants constitute the lower or middle sectors of the society. A good percentage of migrants were skilled or semiskilled laborers in the Dominican Republic. This shows that immigrants are generally more skilled than most people in the home country. When they get into the Puerto Rico, their friends and relatives who have already settled there may assist them to get housing and jobs. Others may continue their risky journey to New York (Torres& Herna%u0301ndez 1998 p. 93).
Undocumented maritime immigration usually takes the form of human trafficking. This form of migration is more often than not linked to criminal organizations in both the country of origin and the host country. This causes the governments in both countries to be against this activity. Human trafficking is usually caused by global trends such as:
1. Push and pull factors. The push factors are the circumstances in the country of origin that make the immigrant seek better pastures elsewhere. While the pull factors are those factors that are in the host countries that make the immigrant want to settle there. These are such as increased employment opportunities.
2. Increased technology in the transport sector causes human trafficking to be easier, faster and less detectable
3. Increased involvement of criminal groups in human trafficking has led to increased financing in the illegal movement of people. The increase in the involvement of criminal gangs is caused by the presence of a lesser risk in returns as compared to other criminal activities. Undocumented immigrants pay these criminal groups large sums of money to enable them to cross seas and borders to their preferred host country.
4. The rising incomes in the country of origin are also another cause of the increase in human trafficking. This is because the immigrant has to pay the smugglers a large amount of money so as to be transported to the host country. This paradoxical trend is known as the “migration hump”.
Migration has been an extremely valuable part of life in the Caribbean since time immemorial. Migration in the Caribbean dates back to the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries when migration was forced due to the slave trade going on in these centuries. Voluntary and economic migration has been a momentous phenomenon in the country for the last century (Torres& Herna%u0301ndez 1998 p. 78). Before the Dominican Republic attained its independence, people were already migrating in search of a better life away from the island. This was during the period after the Second World War. Most of migration in the recent past from the Dominican Republic has been directed to North America and Europe. In the twentieth century, approximately six million people have moved from the Caribbean Islands (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) to North America and Europe.
Migration to the UK and the US was at its peak in the 1950s and 1960s. However in the 1970s and 1980s, migration from the Dominican Republic has decreased due to many countries tightening their immigration controls and quotas. At the same time, undocumented migration from the Island increased substantially. Economic hardships and political repression caused a massive increase in “boat people” into America.
Migration of citizens from the Dominican Republic to other Caribbean countries has also been a popular phenomenon. As the nineteenth century came to an end and in the beginning of the twentieth century, intra-Caribbean migration started. This was led by the slave trade. Sugar cane cutters from the Eastern region of the Island were enlisted to work in the Dominican Republic between 1910 and 1912. This led to a great influx on immigrants into the Dominican Republic. However, the abolition of the slave trade saw to the decrease of migration within the Caribbean.
From time immemorial, the Dominican Republic immigrants moved to areas with impressive economic growth caused by excess investment. This led to labor shortage thereby creating jobs for immigrants. This was the “pull” factor for immigration. The “push” factor for the Dominican immigration was due to such factors as lack of opportunity, land shortages, overcrowding, poverty, and the longing to expand ones prospects.
The government policies in the country of emigration were also a key factor in migration of cheap labor. In the past, migration hardly ever carried a disgrace in the sending countries (Torres& Herna%u0301ndez 1998 p. 99). This is because it was the most rational thing to do both socially and economically. Immigrants always moved from poverty stricken areas to areas with significant prospects.
However, the immigrants from the Dominican Republic were faced with both unqualified prospects and risks. An example is when over 20000 workers from all over the Caribbean died in Panama due to yellow fever and malaria.
Dominican migration patterns today
Migration of the Dominicans to other countries of the Caribbean has dropped by an exceedingly significant margin in the last 40 years. It consists of 10% of the total migration from the Dominican Republic. The reliance on sugar plantations as the main source of revenue has been replaced by tourism, which requires massive amounts of labor. This has led to the migration of the Dominicans to Caribbean countries such as the Bahamas, Anguilla and Antigua (Graziano 2006 p. 5). Over the last three decades these countries have been experiencing massive growth in their tourism sectors. Also the island of St. Martin which is shared between the Dutch and the French has been privy to a construction boom due to the tourism related activities. This island also hosts a relatively large number of Dominican Republic immigrants.
The Dominican Republic is one of the most economically challenged countries in the Caribbean. This also causes it to be the country with the leading number of immigrants to the UK, US and also to other Caribbean countries and islands. The Dominican Republic often acts as a point from which immigrants from the republic itself and Haiti to be shipped off to other countries such as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, St Martin and Guadeloupe.
In some cases, the host country welcomes the immigrants, especially if they are skilled laborers and professionals. The host country offers immigrant legal residence and a work permit. However, documented immigration is a rare occurrence in the Dominican Republic (Torres& Herna%u0301ndez 1998 p. 78). This is because the government protects their skilled labor force from leaving the country to seek greener pastures. This is also caused by the restricted movement of labor in the free trade agreements within the Caribbean countries such as Caricom.
This causes most of migration from the Dominican Republic to be undocumented. Most immigrants are uneducated and poor people living in the country. They are more inclined to migrate from their country, because there are considerably few opportunities available for income generation.
In the recent past, women form the largest percentage of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. This is due to the growing economical aspirations and educational achievements, which cause them to seek greener pastures (Graziano 2006 p. 17). Gender disparities in authority, power, wealth and income have been the leading “push” factor for women in the Dominican Republic. Research shows that the Caribbean region women form the largest percentage of immigrants. There are plenty of opportunities in host countries, such as America and Europe for women to select, such as employment opportunities in the tourism sector. Plenty of women migrate from the Dominican Republic to become prostitutes and strippers in the developed world. Sometimes when women immigrants (both undocumented and documented) arrive at their host country they may lack job opportunities in legitimate fields.
The norm where the men were first to migrate and then the women followed later does not apply any more for most of the Caribbean nations. Within the Caribbean islands, the increase in tourism has made it possible for women to migrate within the islands since most employers look for cheap labor to employ.
The risks faced by present day immigrants are many. This is notwithstanding the risk of the journey itself for undocumented immigrants. Unlike in the past, the risk of deportation for undocumented immigrants is greater (Graziano 2006 p. 27). This is due to increased security in most developed countries which is caused by the rise in terrorism, in the world. Unlike in the past, technology has also made it possible for security officials to recognize illegal immigrants. This may lead to imprisonment or deportation to the country of origin.
Undocumented immigrants are also faced problems, such as little or no access to health care, education, housing and other forms of assistance such as the police. Undocumented immigrants are also vulnerable to abuse from their employers. This may be in the form of emotional or even sexual harassment with impunity. For the illegal immigrants working in the informal sector, lack of representation from any trade union may lead to job instability. This is because they have no one to champion for their employment rights.
According to the International Organization for Immigration, xenophobia and racism are more apparent for illegal immigrants. Xenophobia is sometimes caused by politicians who pressurize the people of the host country against illegal immigrants.
Migration, whether undocumented or documented, can be seen as a positive feature. This is by reducing the employment deficit in the host country, increasing foreign exchange in the country of origin through foreign remittances. Today, migration may also be a negative phenomenon since it leads to brain drain of the country of origins’ human capital. Foreign remittances are beneficial in the short run however in the long run they may lead to untenable increased dependency.
The government in the Dominican Republic has not done much to prevent or reduce undocumented immigration. The government lacks the necessary resources to police the country’s ports and borders. The government is also not in favor of blocking anyone who wants to leave the country unless they are educated and skilled professionals.
Governments of the countries within the Caribbean do not have strict laws against undocumented immigrants. They are also not particularly strict on border protection. This is because they know that undocumented immigrants seek employment and are willing to offer it at extremely little wage rate. This further decreases the cost of production and reduces the general prices of commodities in the country. Governments in the receiving countries such as the United States of America are particularly vigorous in protecting their borders against illegal immigrants.
In a way, both the origin and some host countries benefit from undocumented immigrants. The irony, however, is that immigrants who are in search for greener pastures find even more deplorable conditions of living that they left in their home country. These are such as poverty, cultural shocks and exploitation.
The United States
The migration laws which are in place in the United States are meant to only allow in those immigrants with specific skills of a level of education (Herna%u0301ndez 2002 p. 78). This disqualifies most immigrants who come from the Dominican Republic where the level of education is considerably low. These immigration laws enable the country to develop economically.
Causes of immigration into the United States
People move from one nation to another for a host of diverse reasons. Some seek greener pastures and, therefore, move voluntarily while others are moving away from the violence, prejudices and persecutions in their home countries.
Moving form one country to another may be a traumatic experience. This may be due to cultural shock for the immigrant, loneliness and pressure to earn money to remit back home and to also survive in the host country.
Most people immigrate to the United States of America seeking greener pastures. This is because the USA is the most developed nation in the globe and, therefore, presents better job opportunities and living conditions to most immigrants. Immigrants move from their home country seeking to live the “American Dream”.
A good percentage of immigrants also migrate to the United States seeking better education. America is home to the worlds most prestigious Ivy League universities making it a preferred destination for many academicians.
Some people also move to the United States so as to be reconnected to their families who may have moved there earlier.
It relieves the pressure off the country of origin caused by absurd rate of joblessness.
The country of origin benefits from remittances from the United States (Herna%u0301ndez 2002 p. 55). These remittances form a large part of the gross domestic product and gross national product.
A good number of immigrants may return to their home country bringing with them a stock of education and technology which will be of substantial help to the home country industries’.
Although most immigrants from the Dominican Republic are uneducated and have no professional skills, there are a sizeable number of them who are educated and skilled. Immigration of the educated and skilled laborers will lead to brain drain of human capital.
Positive effect of immigration on the United States
Increase in undocumented immigrant’s leads to an increase in cheap labor, which reduces the cost of production, and further reduces the prices of most consumer goods.
An influx of immigrants into the country also causes an increase in demand for consumer goods thereby increasing the number of industries and their growth.