The problem with boycotting the Dominican Republic: why it is not the answer to the human rights crisis

06/22/2015 05:37 pm ET | Updated Jun 19, 2016

The Haitian immigration conflict occurring in the Dominican Republic has garnered significant social media attention and protests in recent days. Some advocates have suggested a boycott against the Dominican Republic. This is shortsighted -- a closer look at that idea shows that said boycott would only hurt those it is attempting to help.

In 2013 a ruling by the Dominican government stripped thousands of Dominicans of Haitian decent of their statehood. Following international critique of what is rightfully considered a massive human rights violation, their government attempted to create a system to register those affected. The deadline for people to validate their citizenship was this past Wednesday and now thousands of Dominicans with Haitian descent may face deportation.

No sane person can deny that race, xenophobia and discrimination are a part of Haitian/Dominican relations. It has been that way for years.

But here's a reality check: the immigration disaster in the Dominican Republic is not any different from our human rights violations at the Mexican border. There thousands of children flee the violence instituted by the American war on drugs -- and are kept at detention centers to be deported.

This hypocrisy in American outcry has not gone unnoticed and it is creating bigger tensions and ill feelings from Dominicans that could otherwise be allies in the fight for Haitian rights. Many are unaware that Haitian immigration is also a concern in the Bahamas, Brazil and Canada.

There are some conveniently hiding behind their computer screens, suggesting we should all boycott the Dominican Republic to add pressure to their government to solve their human rights crisis. This may seem like a simple, ethical solution. But by boycotting the Dominican Republic we are misunderstanding whom our protests would be directly impacting.

A large number of Black Dominicans, most of whom come from Haitian decent, work for cheap to sustain an economy that relies on tourism. Boycotting would essentially make the poor, poorer.

Dominican economy and Haitian workers

The Dominican government has revealed that approximately 240,000 migrant workers started the registration process but the New York Times reports that there are an estimated 524,000 migrant workers in the Dominican Republic, the majority of whom are Haitian.

For generations these Haitian workers have worked in sugar cane fields, tourism and cleaning homes. Dominican employers rely on their work to continue to grow the tourism and service industries. A boycott of the country would most directly affect job opportunities of Haitian migrant workers and Dominican citizens -- as has been well documented, the government and foreign investors invest in tourism while the majority of the population lacks access to basic needs such as water and electricity.

A few on Twitter have taken notice to the pointlessness of boycotting the Dominican Republic:

Who is behind Dominican tourism?

There is a cruel irony to boycotting Dominican tourism: most travelers staying in the ever-growing list of popular resorts and golf destinations are doing so in spots that are not Dominican-owned.

Hospitality companies such as the Apple Leisure Group (based in Pennsylvania) own subsidiaries that operate a series of resorts and destinations for travelers encouraged with the incentive of tax exemptions by tourism policy makers in the Dominican Republic. The money made from tourism only seems to benefit the foreign owners who have no interest in the state of race relations and human rights in the country.

Activist @bad_dominicana said it best: