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Church stands with Dominicans of Haitian descent

Posted on: October 28, 2013 4:19 PM
A field of sugar cane in the Dominican Republi
Related Categories: haiti, USA

[Episcopal News Service] Dominicans of Haitian descent are facing statelessness after the constitutional court of the Dominican Republic ruled ineligible for citizenship any children born of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.

Because of the court’s ruling, hundreds of thousands of descendants of immigrants, mostly from Haiti, who were born in the Dominican Republic, will no longer be recognized as citizens, said Bishop of the Dominican Republic Julio Holguín in an Oct. 25 e-mail to ENS.

“I believe that the constitutional court has made ​​a big mistake with that ruling, which violates the rights of at least four generations of descendants of immigrants, most of whom came to the Dominican Republic, by agreement between the two governments, Dominican and Haitian, to work primarily cutting sugarcane,” he said.

The Episcopal Church in the Dominican Republic serves Haitian communities throughout the country in its parishes and missions. In the November-December issue of Episcopax, the diocese’s newspaper, devotes significant space to defending the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent.

The Dominican Republic, population 10.2 million, and Haiti, population 9.8 million, share the island of Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic is slightly larger, occupying 64 percent of the island’s eastern half. For decades, Haitians have worked in the Dominican Republic’s sugarcane fields, as domestic servants and at other forms of menial labor.

On Sept. 23, the country’s constitutional court in an 11-2 decision ruled that the citizen provision in the 1929 Dominican constitution should not apply to the children of parents who were not “legal residents” at the time of their children’s birth, and, further, that subsequent generations born on Dominican soil also should be denied citizenship.

An estimated 200,000 people born of Haitian parents live in the Dominican Republic. On Oct. 24, the court instructed local authorities to “audit all of the nation’s birth records back to June 1929 to determine who no longer qualifies for citizenship,” according to an article in The New York Times.

As Holguín explained, the court’s decision invalidates not only birth certificates, but also calls into question the validity of other forms of identification, including passports, and could inhibit the ability to enroll in school and college, open a bank account, own a home, etc.

“In other words, the constitutional court has decided to establish an ‘apartheid’ in the Dominican Republic,” he said.