Video | Dominican Republic: No Citizenship For Children of Undocumented Haitian Workers

Because of change to the Dominican constitution that denies citizenship to the children of undocumented workers — virtually all Haitians — born in the Dominican Republic, hundreds of thousands of Haitians who were born here decades ago are suddenly stateless.

 

The struggles between Haiti and the Dominican Republic date back hundreds of years, when the island they share was ruled by different colonial powers, the French in the west and the Spanish on the east.  Haitian slaves booted their colonial masters and established their own nation, eventually occupying the entire island. An occupation that was at first welcomed soon soured, and the Dominican Republic to this day celebrates its 1844 independence from Haiti.

 

In 1937, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the army to slaughter tens of thousands of Haitians. That didn’t stop the Dominican Republic from signing contracts with thousands of Haitians to work in sugar cane fields.  By the 1960s, agricultural communities called bateyes were filled by Haitians. They settled and had children.

 

According to the constitution, the children of people “in transit” were not entitled to citizenship. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling backed up a migration law defining anyone who lacked legal residency as “in transit” — regardless of how many decades they had lived in the country.  In January 2010, two weeks after the Haitian quake, a new constitution took effect denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

 

The grown children of Haitian immigrants say the government has applied the new constitution retroactively, denying papers to anyone whose parents did not have legal residency. In Latin America, a recently certified birth certificate is required whenever anyone marries, goes to college, or requests a passport.

 

The issue has been the subject of lawsuits in the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights. One landmark case ruled against the Dominican Republic, saying a migrant cannot be considered in transit for decades and migration status cannot be inherited.  But the cases caused such a backlash here that the laws being disputed as unconstitutional led to the recent permanent changes to the constitution.

Click here to read article in the Miami Herald;

Click here to see video by Al Jazeera: Race and Racism in Latin America, part one: The Dominican Republic.

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