A controversial Dominican Republican law that many decried as a racist move to expel people of Haitian descent from the country, went into effect this week, causing possibly over 100,000 people to wake up in the Dominican Republic on Monday and no longer be considered citizens of the country in which they were born.
These stateless Dominicans who are the descendants of Haitian immigrants were supposed to apply for migrant permits under the widely attacked 2014 law, the culmination in the minds of many of the long-standing effort by the Dominican Republic to deny basic rights to people whose parents were originally from the poorer and Blacker neighboring country with which the DR shares an island.
Amnesty International reported Dominican government figures indicating that just 5,345 people had applied to normalize their status by early January, out of the estimated 110,000 people eligible to apply.
“This could leave thousands at risk of possible expulsion from the country,” Erika Guevara Rosas, the America’s director of Amnesty, said in a press release. “The simple fact is that when the vast majority of these people were born, the Dominican law at the time recognized them as citizens. Stripping them of this right, and then creating impossible administrative hurdles to stay in the country, is a violation of their human rights.”
It’s not clear how and when the Dominican government would go about deporting people who have lived their entire lives in the DR, but the act itself surely would bring worldwide condemnation.
But even in the midst of attack from many quarters, the Dominican government has not backed down, with government officials, in addition to many Dominican intellectuals, saying the law was within their rights.
Dominican researcher Virgilio Rodriguez wrote on Al Jazeera that race was not the reason for the DR’s move. He cited statistics from an avowed anti-immigration group in the U.S., the U.S. Center for Immigration Studies, which claims 145 of the world’s 194 countries do not apportion citizenship to children born of illegal immigrants.
The Dominican Republic in 2004 changed the law to deny birthright citizenship to the Dominican-born children of Haitian migrants. In 2010, that change was enshrined in a new Dominican constitution and was applied retroactively by a DR court ruling in 2013.
Last year, the Dominican legislature attempted to soften the law by allowing those who could provide proof of their birth in Dominican territory to undocumented parents to obtain a migratory permit and apply for naturalization after continuing to reside in the country for another two years.
But as the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative pointed out in a press release, many people affected by the law would have trouble providing the documentation because “many Dominicans of Haitian descent, particularly those living in poverty, were either unable or actively prevented from registering births during the 1929-2007 period.”
Video by Huffpost Live