In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court ruled that anyone in the country born to non-citizen parents—dating as far back as 1929—would be stripped of their birthright citizenship and deported unless they could produce official residency papers. Haitians make up the largest group of those affected. 

In the early 20th century, tens of thousands of Haitians moved to the D.R., their neighboring country, to work in the sugar cane fields. Their descendents who were born and raised in the Dominican Republic now run the risk of being “sent back” to Haiti—a country they never lived in—unless they can produce papers that thousands lack. 

At a panel yesterday in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, organized by the Miami Workers Center, Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz spoke out jointly against the policy, which took effect last week. 

Díaz said he spent last week in Santo Domingo and was privy to the ground-level effect that the expulsions and so-called self-deportations are having on the local population. In a statement to Fusion, he condemned international silence about the crisis: 

The last time something like this happened was Nazi Germany, and yet people are like, shrugging about it. Think about how much fear you would have to feel for you to suddenly pick the fuck up and flee.

In her own statements, Danticat spoke about the urgency of the situation—even compared to the Dominican Republic’s ethnic cleansing of Haitians in the 1930s. 

“I think of that period as a historical scar, but we can’t let that overshadow the moment we’re living, which is potentially as tragic,” she told Fusion. “The worst case scenario is having the largest, mass movement of a body of people this hemisphere has seen… It’s a humanitarian crisis ready to happen.”

Visit Fusion.com to see photos and read its reporting on the panel.