Stateless and without rights

The Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the children of Haitian migrant workers can’t have Dominican citizenship. In other words, around 300,000 dominicans of Hatian descent born after 1929 could get deported next year. This ruling would also impact substantial populations of Arab and Chinese immigrants.

On Thursday, the court found that a broad category of Haitians who moved to Dominican Republic to work in sugarcane farms, as well as their descendants, could not be citizens. It argued that in 1929, Haitian farmworkers were “in transit,” so their children don’t have the right to automatically obtain citizenship. This ruling is definitive and can’t be appealed.

Countries like England, Australia, and France have eliminated birthright citizenship. In Latin America, the restrictions vary by country for the right to citizenship, but none have abandoned the practice.

What is especially detrimental about the Dominican Republic’s decision is that it’s retroactive, going back 84 years. It leaves hundreds of thousands of people stateless, unless they turn to a regularization plan that hasn’t yet been announced.

According to Refugees International, a stateless status could have disastrous consequences on these people, because they lack legal protections and access to social services, their employment prospects are poor, they’re unable to travel and have few protections against human trafficking, harassment and violence.

All this while pro-human rights groups and pro-immigrant activists in places with high concentrations of Dominicans abroad, in addition to government representatives like the Dominican Consulate in New York, are demanding comprehensive immigration reform for their expats.

This level of hypocrisy and institutional racism is disgusting. There was never an immigration regularization process for Haitians despite their presence in the country for more than a century. To make matters worse, this ruling makes civil genocide official in a country where 76 years ago the head of State ordered a massacre of blacks and Haitians.

This court decision has exposed the entire country to international ridicule. It also jeopardizes Dominican interests and the lives of thousands because of xenophobic ideologies.

The country’s drastic change in birthright citizenship policies is unbelievable. The position of the elitist far right and the top government and judicial hierarchies on this issue is deeply inhumane.

We urge the Dominican government—in line with the country’s international human rights obligations—to implement all necessary measures to ensure that Dominican citizens of Haitian origin aren’t deprived of their rights to citizenship.

It’s up to the international community through sanctions and to Dominican consulates—who have the best understanding of the suffering and struggles immigrant communities experience abroad—to pressure those in power and demand immediate changes to this violation of human rights.