Dominican Court Puts Ethnic Haiti Migrants in Legal Limbo

Friday, 25 Oct 2013 10:52 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Officials in the Dominican Republic are laboring to implement a controversial decision by the country’s top court, which ruled that the children of illegal Haitian migrants are no longer entitled to citizenship.
 
The court last month ordered authorities to audit all of the country’s birth records dating back to June 1929 to determine who no longer qualifies for Dominican citizenship, putting in doubt the status of as many 200,000 people, the New York Times reported.
 
The country’s migration director has said that those affected would receive temporary residency permits while the government devises a way to grant them immigrant status.

But without the benefits of citizenship, those affected would lose the right to vote and to obtain benefits like public health insurance and lower tuition at state colleges, according to the Times.
 
In 2010, Dominican voters approved a constitutional amendment excluding from citizenship the Dominican-born children of those in the country illegally, including seasonal workers.
 
The new court decision goes beyond the referendum by ordering officials to audit birth records dating back decades and compile a list of people who should not qualify for citizenship. Dominican authorities must also inform embassies when questions arise about someone’s nationality.
 
“We are extremely concerned that a ruling of the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court may deprive tens of thousands of people of nationality, virtually all of them of Haitian descent, and have a very negative impact on their other rights,” a spokesperson for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights told reporters in Geneva earlier this month, according to the International Law Prof Blog.
 
Supporters of the decision, including the nation’s immigration commissioner, said it would help the government clarify citizenship rules. The archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, supported the ruling and suggested that international organizations were interfering in Dominican affairs.
 
“International organizations don’t rule here,” he said, according to the Times. “I don’t accept anybody coming here to decree anything. No country, not the United States, not France, nobody. Here, we are in charge.”
 
 
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