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 Times, Mark 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.