Who Am I?

The implications of the Dominican Republic’s new Citizenship Laws

E Abiu Lopez and D Coto "Dominican Republic to End Citizenship of Those Whose Parents Entered Illegally" Huffington Post. ( 27 September 2013)  Accessed on 29 October 2013.

E Abiu Lopez and D Coto “Dominican Republic to End Citizenship of Those Whose Parents Entered Illegally” Huffington Post. ( 27 September 2013) <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/27/dominican-republic-citize_n_4002844.html > Accessed on 29 October 2013.

What if we were to wake up tomorrow and hear that all individuals born to poor immigrant parents are no longer citizens of the country in which we live? Absurd isn’t it? This is the situation facing nearly 250,000 people in the Dominican Republic born to undocumented immigrants since 1929. What’s important to note is that majority of these individuals are Haitian descendants.

September 26, 2013 marked the day that these individuals were no longer regarded citizens when the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic revoked their citizenship claiming their parents were ‘in transit’. Previously, the rule was that these undocumented immigrants would have to be ‘in transit’ for 10 days or less. Such revocation means that individuals that fall into this category of non-citizens will be unable to enjoy civil, political, social and economic rights each Dominican is entitled to enjoy.

Information obtained from the Centre of Migration Studies (cmsny.org) suggests that this move was the final in a decade-long practice of discrimination against Haitians out of fear which seems to me to be the general feeling of many Caribbean nationals. Effectively, this ruling has rendered those individuals stateless and on the edge of deportation to Haiti where, interestingly, many of them have no established ties or links and are not Haitian citizens. Many of these people have never been to Haiti; they have made their lives in the Republic working as various professionals thereby contributing to various aspects of societal development.

This gives rise to an international human rights crisis. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 15 speaks to the right of each individual as it pertains to their citizenship. International organizations, such as the United Nations, have also come out condemning the revocation. In an article by Anastasia Moloney on Wednesday October 2, 2013, Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is quoted as saying “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.” Within the region too, there has been outcry from individuals such as former Prime Minister of Jamaica, P.J Patterson urging CARICOM to condemn the move.

Not only is such an act illegal but it goes against the concepts of morality and common humanity. What was the court thinking in making such a decision? This is a blatant case of racial and ethnic discrimination. In saying that, I must acknowledge the fact that the government of the Dominican Republic has come up with a ‘legalization plan’ which was suggested in 2004 but has yet to be put into practice. Over the next year, the local electoral commission in the Republic has the task of listing the individuals who are now non-citizens.

I urge you my colleagues join me in helping our neighbours in their fight for an answer to the question “Who am I?”

Odane Lennon


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