3 Years Later: Thousands of Dominicans of Haitian Descent Remain Stateless

September 23, 2016 rally in Santo Domingo. Photo: Amarilys Estrella, We Are All Dominican

 

Written by Kleaver Cruz, We Are All Dominican

La tierra que me han negado, nunca yo me olvido de ella. Soy reconocido y voy de camino a Quisqueya.

Can you imagine what it would feel like if today you found out that you no longer were the citizen of the only country you’d ever known to be home? Can you imagine what it would feel like if you were told that you had to “return” to a country you’ve never been to because your parents, grandparents or perhaps great grandparents were born there? Could you imagine if your home country told you you were no longer at home? This is the reality for tens, if not potentially, hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian Descent (DOHD) currently living in the Dominican Republic.

In 2004, a new Migration Law expanded the category of “foreigners in transit” to include nonresidents, such as undocumented Haitian migrants, no matter how long they had been living in the country. Migration authorities and the Dominican Central Electoral Council (JCE) then began to refuse to supply certified copies of birth certificates to the Dominican-born children of Haitians immigrants.[1] What this has meant in practice, since 2004, is that any baby born in the Dominican Republic perceived to be of Haitian descent was denied citizenship at birth. They have been denied access to a birth certificate that acknowledges citizenship to the country they were born in.

In 2010, more salt was added to the wound when a constitutional reform eliminated birthright citizenship in the Dominican Republic, denying for the first time the nationality of children born in the country to undocumented immigrant parents. Specifically, this affected children born after 2010.[1]

By the early fall of 2013, it was now set into Dominican law that if you were born having undocumented parents and/or were a resident (regardless of how long you’ve lived there), citizenship would be denied. To be clear, these rulings allowed for the systemic discrimination of Dominicans of Haitian Descent, children of undocumented Haitian migrants and generally anyone perceived to be Haitian. That is, to be Black.

On September 23, 2013 the nation’s Constitutional Court passed Resolution 168-13, which retroactively denied Dominican nationality to anyone born after 1929 who does not have at least one parent of Dominican blood, under the argument that undocumented immigrants are considered “in transit.”[1] The ruling led to thorough reviews of the national Civil Registry to identify DOHD and thus denied 40,000 people access to their identity documents which range from birth certificates to national ID cards.

Without these documents, folks have no access to buying cellphones, enrolling in college, access to health care and the numerous human rights they deserve access to. This ruling has put over 200, 000 Dominicans at risk of becoming stateless making this the largest population in the Western Hemisphere of stateless people.

Additionally, a separate registry was created in 2014 that has placed many DOHD in two separate registries which places them in a very vulnerable position. It creates a circumstance where their identity documents can be erased or altered to reflect non-citizenship.

Leading the charge to reverse this ruling and ensuring that all Dominicans of Haitian Descent are treated with respect and acknowledged as rightful citizens and members of Dominican society is Reconoci.do.

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In response to the ruling in 2013, Reconoci.do was largely formed by young Dominicans of Haitian Descent. This relatively small, yet powerful group has been fighting in coalition with organizations like MUDHA, Dominicanos Por Derechos and We Are All Dominican to not only reverse the ruling that is causing hundreds of thousands of people to live in fear and unable to live fully, but to also ensure that they are recognized as human and fellow Dominican compatriots. Because they are.

This gross injustice is part of a long global history of utilizing difference as tool of oppression. In the case of the Dominican Republic, this is a manifestation of a long waging campaign led by elites and fueled by a history of U.S. occupations against blackness and particularly Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. This sentence has set another ugly global precedent that cannot be allowed to continue. If this can happen on an island in the Caribbean, what else is possible?

Our family in the African Diaspora is being persecuted for being themselves and we cannot stand for that. The rhetoric that has been constructed around Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants mimics what we hear in the U.S. in regards to Latinx migrants (often those perceived to be Mexican). This is not a coincidence. What they have in common are thoughts stemming from painful histories of imperialism that are invested in practices that deny its residents and citizens the full realization of their human rights. We cannot allow for any one, any where, to be denied their human rights.

La tierra que me han negado, nunca yo me olvido de ella. Soy reconocido y voy de camino a Quisqueya.

Everyone should be allowed to live the lives that they love and want to grow into in the country they were born in. Todxs somos Dominicanxs.

We Are All Dominican September 23, 2016 action in front of Dominican consulate in NYC, occurring at same time as the action outside of the Constitutional Tribunal in Santo Domingo.

We Are All Dominican  members and allies hold a September 23, 2016 action in front of Dominican consulate in NYC, at the same time as an action outside of the Constitutional Tribunal in Santo Domingo takes place.

Vice-Consul of Dominican consulate speaks to protesters.

Vice-Consul of Dominican consulate speaks to action organizers. 


[1] Fact Sheet comprised by DOMINICANOS/AS X DERECHO NYC and WE ARE ALL DOMINICAN, 2014 https://wearealldominicannyc.wordpress.com/resources/a-timeline-of-denationalization/

Note: Author’s views are their own.

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