Earlier this year, the United Nations released a study that estimated there are close to 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and about 34,000 born to parents of another nationality currently residing in the Dominican Republic.  Unfortunately a recent Dominican Republic Constitutional Court decision will deny citizenship to some D.R.-born children, including some offspring of Haitian migrant workers.

“Based on what the Dominican government is saying, these people are not Dominican citizens and will have to leave and effectively go to Haiti, where they are also not citizens,” attorney Wade McMullen of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights told the Associated Press.

“It creates an extremely complicated situation.”

According to the AP , the court decision applies to those born after 1929. The D.R.’s Constitutional Court ruling gives the nation’s electoral commission one year to produce a list of persons to be excluded from citizenship.

Referred to as the “Haitianization” of the country by D.R’s Immigration Director Jose Ricardo Taveras, the ruling was a welcomed one. In a recent interview with the Associated Press Taveras said, “Far from remaining in limbo like some critics are arguing, (they) will for the first time benefit from a defined status and identity without having to violate the law.”

What’s sad is that Taveras isn’t in the minority when it comes to those feelings. Dating back to 1822, the Dominican government has been dead set against having Haitians in the country.

“It’s deplorable, speaks to the historical discord on the island that continuously violates human rights at the very base level. It’s motivated by colorism, racism and a perceived hierarchy of one people. The international community condemns these injustices and they need to be reversed immediately,” Dash Harris, a film-maker who’s documentary “Negro” takes a look at Afro-Latino history and culture, said in a recent interview.

Not only does this new law reignite the racist views held by so many Dominicans against Haitians, it also violates standards of international law and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Both laws state that  people cannot be stripped of citizenship. Although the Constitutional Court cited a 2010 amendment on citizenship in its 38th Constitution in making the ruling, the decision violates Title II, Chapter 1, Article 38 of that same Constitution, which says all Dominicans are entitled to the same rights regardless of gender, religion, skin color or national origin.

“This ruling saddens me because during the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, the Dominican Republic was the first country to give relief aid to Haiti. They continued to be supportive and it appeared that the relationship between DR and Haiti was shifting. This ruling does reopen  old deep wounds, even for us Haitian-Americans, of hatred and racism. It is insane that we still get this adverse response from the Dominican Republic because we are all the same people on the same island. DR is better off economically but their animosity and violence towards Haitians only exacerbates the political and economical instability of the whole island. Something will be and has to be done to change this ruling”, said Ninon Chataigne, a Haitian-American currently  living in the D.C area.

In a recent Op-Ed for the LA TimesMark Kurlansky, Julia Alvarez, Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz expressed their feelings about the recent ruling:

How should the world react? Is it such a big thing — the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of a few hundred thousand Dominicans? Should Western nations, starting with the United States, conduct business-as-usual with a country that commits such crimes against human rights? Would this be a suitable place to spend the family vacation, now that tourism has become a major Dominican economic activity?

Isn’t it time that the world tells the Dominican government that stripping people of their rights based on their ethnic background, setting up part of the citizenry for abuse and establishing an apartheid state is unacceptable? Is a nation building weapons of mass destruction or perhaps using chemical weapons on its own people the only line we will defend? Don’t we also need to recognize, as we learned in Germany, the Balkans and South Africa, that we cannot accept institutionalized racism?

Judy Mystila, a Haitian-American from New Jersey, had one thing to say about the issues currently facing Haitians in the D.R, “Fuck you Dominican Republic”.  Mystila has vowed never to visit the country again.

Birthright Crisis 2013 from Haitian Women 4 Haitian Refugees on Vimeo.

Clutchettes, what do you think about the new ruling facing Haitians living in the Dominican Republic?

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  • CAsweetface

    I absolutely adore the Dominican Republic. One of my favorite places on earth, but i will now forgo any trips to Hispaniola until this is rectified. This is so disturbing on so many levels.

  • Janie

    ‘Funny because most Americans won’t take minimum wage jobs or jobs where they have to get dirty – Mexicans, Africans, Dominicans, and all other minorities are quick to snatch up these jobs (example – farm hands: Mexicans have that locked up because blacks won’t do the work….so, you wanna rephrase us taking jobs away…) .

    Funny, you never mention white people no wanting to work in the fields. Are they too good for that?


    A recent ruling by the Dominican constitutional court on citizenship eligibility has generated a lot of media controversy. Unfortunately, it exhibits multiple problems, including one-sided compassion, brazen unfairness, and misleading and provably erroneous information. If these inaccuracies and problems are not addressed, impoverished innocent people may suffer undesirable side effects.

    The ruling: clarifications and justification

    For starters, it is simply false that according to the ruling “all those born in the country after 1929, and whose parents were not Dominicans, should no longer be considered Dominican citizens.” The ruling has no effect on anyone ever born in the DR to a legal permanent resident.

    Furthermore, the ruling did not “strip four generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent, of their citizenship”. One cannot be stripped of something one has never had. The ruling does dictate that according to all Dominican constitutions since 1929, those born to illegal residents, or to individuals in certain “transient” categories, have never qualified for Dominican birthright citizenship (jus soli), unless they were ineligible for the citizenship of their parents (by jus sanguinis).

    The ruling makes no change to the official policy of the Dominican Republic. For instance, it can be easily verified that, at least since 1939, a valid Dominican birth declaration has required parents to show valid officially issued identification cards (“cedulas de indentidad”). Illegal residents cannot legally obtain such ID’s. Hence, any Dominican birth certificate, a person in such status may have obtained, is necessarily invalid. Such residents have been, for decades, expected to get birth certificates for their children from their consular authorities.

    However, immigration errors, whether by mistake or mischief, are a problem in many societies, and when discovered anywhere around the world, the records are corrected. In fact, the birth certificate presented by plaintiffs against the ruling explicitly indicates the absence of the parents’ official IDs, which is prima facie evidence of the certificate’s invalidity. Since the plaintiffs were not likely to be the only ones with an improperly obtained Dominican birth certificate, the ruling did order an audit to identify all of those who, for whatever reasons, may have been improperly registered as Dominicans.
    The ruling is not retroactive, since each case is considered under the constitution in force at the time of birth (hence the 1929 starting date). In fact, it agrees with previous Dominican court rulings and administrative decisions. For instance, years ago, the Dominican Supreme Court argued that for as long as parents in legal status under certain (“de transito”) categories were excluded from jus soli privilege, illegal residents needed to also be excluded, simply as a matter of judicial consistence: No one should gain additional legal benefits as a consequence of falling outside the rule of law.

    Comparison to other countries

    The excessive and unjustified outcry by many against the ruling inherently implies that the Dominican citizenship policy for illegal residents is exceptionally severe. However, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, 145 of 194 countries do not award automatic citizenship at birth to those born to illegal residents, and 19 are of unknown policy, leaving only 30 countries confirmed to do so (and in only a fraction of these is illegal immigration a serious problem). Thus, the Dominican Republic is not the exception, but the norm.

    In fact, many countries award citizenship regardless of birthplace, but only to children born to their own citizens (jus sanguinis) as, ironically, does Haiti itself. According to Haiti’s constitution, no one with a Haitian parent can become stateless, and Haitian parents can obtain birth certificates from Haitian consulates worldwide (four of which are in the Dominican Republic). By the same token, a child born in Haiti to Dominicans or any non-Haitians is denied Haitian citizenship, not only if the parents are illegal residents in Haiti, but even if they have long been legal permanent residents there.

    Yet, commentators do not accuse Haitians, or any of the great many countries with similar policies, of xenophobia or racism.

    Likewise, it is disingenuous to imply that a person born to Haitians in the Dominican side of a small island (about the size of Austria or the US state of South Carolina) somehow manages to lose her/his parents’ language (even though she/he needs it to communicate with them), as well as all connections with the relatives and culture on the other side of the small island, even though she/he can, on Dominican soil, interact with other Haitians, receive Haitian broadcasts, and possibly, periodically cross the porous border back and forth. And, again, if such argument was valid in the Dominican Republic, it would also apply in any of the 145 plus countries where similar cases arise with normality.

    Racial issues

    Many have repeatedly and unjustly accused Dominicans of racial prejudice. However, there are historical events that provide alternate non-racial explanations for Dominicans to feel apprehensive about Haitians and their massive presence. In the early 19th century, Haiti started out as the more prosperous and populous side, officially defined itself as including the entire “indivisible” island, and promptly invaded the Spanish-speaking side. Retreating Haitian troops committed well-documented abuses on the local population. Years later, shortly after Dominicans became independent from Spain, Haitians invaded again, and went on to rule the Dominican side with an iron fist for over two decades. In 1844, Dominicans fought and won their independence from Haiti, but for years had to resist repeated major armed invasions from Haiti.

    Since then, Haiti has retained a numerical population advantage, and a much higher population density. Very large numbers of Haitians have, at one point or another, for various reasons, entered and/or remained in the Dominican Republic without legal approval from the Dominican authorities (currently at least over half a million do so). The possibility that masses of Haitians occupy large portions of the DR, eventually gaining political control over the Dominican Republic through their Dominican-born children is by no means far-fetched.

    Moreover, while some have argued that Haitians have constituted one of the most substantially underpaid labor forces, it should be noted that it also forces impoverished Dominicans competing with Haitians for the same jobs to accept the same low wages. They must also compete with Haitians in the informal economy, as well as for overloaded important public services, such as hospitals and schools. It is then undeniable that the massive Haitian presence in the Dominican Republic, while possibly beneficial to certain business interests and wealthy individuals, significantly lowers the living standards of the Dominican poor.
    Those who have written the Dominican constitutions have known the past and present factors that induce legitimate concerns on the Dominican people about Haitians’ massive presence. It stands to reason that they have considered such concerns, while writing the constitutions. This may very well be the strongest argument in favor of the Dominican Constitutional Court’s ruling.