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Author Topic: The Dominican Republic: The dirty business of cleansing  (Read 12410 times)
Posts: 1810

« on: November 14, 2013, 10:49:57 PM »

The dirty business of cleansing

By Sheila Rampersad
Story Updated: Nov 7, 2013

Sitting with Dr Jose Serulle Ramia, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to T&T yesterday, I heard words that had already been uttered by his partner ambassador to Washington DC, Anibal de Castro, in the New York Times of October 31—that the DR Government must follow the law i.e. Ruling 0168-13 of the country’s Constitutional Tribunal; that DR is not racist towards Haitians; that it has a legitimate interest in regulating immigration; and that the ruling was a mandate to provide people affected with temporary residence permits until a regularisation plan is in place.

The ambassador in DC added that those affected are not stateless because the Haitian constitution bestows citizenship on any person born of Haitian parents anywhere in the world. In others words, de Castro is saying these people are constitutionally Haitian citizens although they have lived and worked in the DR for generations, speak Spanish and little or no French or Haitian kweyol, and many have never set foot on Haitian soil.

De Castro’s letter to the NY Times editor was published alongside one signed by award-winning authors Edwidge Danticat, Junot Diaz, Mark Kurlansky Julia Alvarez. The writers argued that one of the important lessons of the Holocaust was that the first step to genocide is to strip a people of their right to citizenship.

They describe the ruling, which is retroactive to 1929, as institutionalised racism and a huge step backward: “The ruling will make it challenging for them to study; to work in the formal sector of the economy; to get insurance; to pay into their pension fund; to get married legally; to open bank accounts; and even to leave the country that now rejects them if they cannot obtain or renew their passport. It is an instantly created underclass set up for abuse.”

The foursome raise the spectre of the October 1937 Dominican Massacre when dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the deaths of an estimated 20,000 Haitians over five days.

Seventy-six years later, that cleansing burns in the memory of Haitians. The BBC picks up the story, recounting that it earned the name the Parsley Massacre because Dominican soldiers carried a sprig of parsley and would ask people suspected of being Haitian to pronounce the Spanish word for it: “perejil.”

Those whose first language was Haitian kwejol found it difficult to say it correctly, a mistake that cost them their lives.

Bodies were dumped in the Massacre River, so named after an earlier colonial struggle between the Spanish and French.

From late September to mid-October that year, men, women and children were rounded up, then beaten or hacked to death for just being Haitian.

Even dark-skinned Dominicans were caught up in the purge that became known as “el corte”, the cutting.

Even the US at the time, which regarded Trujillo as a staunch ally, condemned the killings in diplomatic cables describing it as “a systematic campaign of extermination”.

There is evidence that in many villages Dominicans risked their own lives to help their Haitian neighbours escape. In other cases, local people pointed out Haitian immigrants to the authorities.

The ghost of DR past resurrected in that country this week when a crowd, comprised of “patriotic” NGOs in defence of sovereignty, gathered  to support the court ruling. Among the chants and banners were “Death to the Traitors”, “Build a Wall”, and “Let us Cleanse the Country”.

It would have been a terror-inducing to Haitian-descended Dominicans to see the crowd and hear the violent, racist rhetoric. The hypocritical leaders of these “patriotic” NGOs did not speak of landowners and business people who encouraged Haitians to DR as cheap labour to be exploited for maximum profit. But Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Ilosa spoke it in Courrier International.

Neither did the NGOs nor the two ambassadors speak about the fact that the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal violates a 2005 ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which told the Dominican Republic that it could not use the nationality of parents as pretext for taking citizenship from their children. The Inter-American court’s rulings are binding.

Haitian-descended Dominicans are not the only ones affected. Making its ruling retroactive to 1929, the Constitutional Tribunal instructions also include the descendants of Jews, Chinese and Europeans. By far, however, the largest and perhaps most vulnerable grouping is Haitian descended.

An immigrant census released earlier this year estimated there were 245,000 Dominican-born, first-generation children of immigrants living in the country. The number affected by the ruling is likely to be exponentially higher because it applies to other generations as well.

If, as Mario Vargas Ilosa said, the true face of the DR was visible in the country’s immediate expression of humanity following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, it’s time for more of that to be demonstrated by Dominicans who, incidentally, are themselves beneficiaries of first-world countries’ generosity when they migrate illegally.



Ambassador: Not all are granted Dominican citizenship

Story Created: Nov 8, 2013 at 9:25 PM ECT

Unlike the United States, the Dominican Republic does not grant citizenship to all those born within its jurisdiction.

This was stated by Anibal De Castro,  Ambassador of the Dominican Republic in Washington, in a statement posted on the Express website yesterday in response to a column entitled “The Dirty Business of Cleansing” by Dr Sheila Rampersad.

In fact, De Castro said the United States is one of the few nations that maintains this practice.

Following is the text of De Castro’s statement:

“Unlike the United States, the Dominican Republic does not grant citizenship to all those born within its jurisdiction. In fact, the United States is one of the few nations that maintains this practice. In most countries, it is the norm that citizenship be obtained by origin or conferred under certain conditions. Since 1929, the Constitution of the Dominican Republic has established that the children of people in transit, a temporary legal status, are not eligible for Dominican citizenship.

The article you published does not mention that this principle was confirmed in 2005 by our Supreme Court and subsequently ratified in a constitutional reform in 2010. The Constitutional Court confirms previous interpretations of other courts and pursues its implementation with the relevant authorities, in order to establish a coherent immigration policy.

Like other nations with a significant immigrant population, the Dominican Republic has a legitimate interest in regulating immigration and having clear rules for acquisition of citizenship. This does not only ensure the internal stability of the country, but it also ensures adequate protection of its immigrants. The Dominican Republic should not be pressured by outside actors and other countries to implement measures contrary to its own Constitution and that would be unacceptable to most other nations facing similar immigration pressures.

The Dominican government recognises its obligations to the international community and the plight of the children of illegal Haitian migrants born in the country who lack identity documents.

This does not, however, render them stateless. As your article says, Haiti’s Constitution bestows citizenship on any person born of Haitian parents anywhere in the world. This means that a person born to foreign parents in Haiti, is not eligible for Haitian citizenship.

Also, the Haitian State has the obligation to document their nationals, regardless of their place of birth. Our country cannot bear the responsibility for the consequences due to the difficulty Haiti has in documenting its citizens. Even so, the Dominican Republic has carried out efforts to support Haitian authorities in the regulation of civil registration, including free access to Dominican institutions to facilitate their labour.

Your article argues that there has been discrimination against Haitian immigrants as far as granting nationality is concerned. If in fact there are inconsistent actions, they are the result of the struggle that the Dominican Republic has faced for decades to successfully implement its immigration policy, the same that has affected your very own immigration policies.

It should be noted, moreover, that those born to at least one parent who is a legal Dominican resident is in fact a Dominican citizen.

Therefore, the number of people who do not qualify for Dominican nationality has been grossly exaggerated. A key component of the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling was a mandate to provide people affected with temporary residence permits until a regularisation plan is in place.

These allow them to remain and work in the country and will provide ways to obtain nationality or residence, according to individual factors.

Each case will be carefully examined and subject to judicial due process. Speculation about mass deportations that I have heard is therefore baseless.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti may have a fractious history. Recent events, including the solidarity shown by Dominican society after the earthquake of 2010, have shown, however, that for the most part the countries are looking to the future, engaged in the hard task of finding joint solutions to common challenges.”

Posts: 1810

« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2013, 11:18:08 PM »

Dominican Republic: Time to Move Forward to Resolve Statelessness

Refugees International Advocate Melanie Teff and Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights Program Officer Marselha Gonçalves Margerin assessed the situation of people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic in May 2008 and also participated as election observers.

By admin
Created 05/28/2008 - 10:30

Policy recommendations

    The Dominican Government stop the retroactive application of the 2004 Migration Law.
    The international community, and particularly the US Government, urge the Dominican government to comply with its international legal obligations ensuring that any document investigation is conducted following due process without retroactive application of the law and avoiding the creation of statelessness.
    The Dominican Government formulate a regularization plan in consultation with affected communities.
    The Dominican Government ensure that any investigation into identity documents is conducted with due process, with written notice to individuals and a right of appeal to a court.
    Donor governments ensure that people without identity documents are not excluded from social programs they are supporting in the Dominican Republic

On May 16, President Leonel Fernandez won a further term in office using the electoral slogan "Pa'lante" ("moving forward") with a campaign message of modernization and development for the country. But the Dominican Republic is not utilizing all its human resources to move forward. An illegal retroactive application of nationality laws is leaving increasing numbers of Dominicans of Haitian descent functionally stateless.

Hundreds of thousands of people are left in legal limbo and, in practice, most of them now have no access to either Dominican or Haitian nationality. This issue must be resolved if the country truly wants to modernize and develop.

Stop Retroactive Application of Nationality Laws

The Dominican Constitution states that all children born on Dominican territory are Dominican citizens, apart from children of diplomats and children of people "in transit". Because "in transit" was defined in the previous Dominican migration law as being in the country less than ten days, children of foreigners born in the Dominican Republic have had the right to Dominican nationality. Children of Haitian origin were often denied this right in practice, but the right existed. Many Haitian migrants did in fact register their children born in the Dominican Republic, using the temporary worker’s card ("ficha") issued to them by the former state sugar company. Dominican registry offices accepted the "ficha" as proof of a parent’s residence in the country and registry offices granted birth certificates and identity cards to children who then grew up as Dominican citizens.

In 2004 the Dominican Republic passed a new migration law which re-defined "in transit" as not being a legal resident, a definition which was rejected by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a 2005 judgment. Regardless, this new definition cannot be applied to people born before the 2004 Migration Law came into force as it is prohibited under international and Dominican law to apply legislation retroactively. Yet, on a recent mission to the country, Refugees International and the Robert F Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights met 25 people, and heard about the cases of hundreds more, who had been issued documents by Dominican registry offices which were now "under investigation," which in practice means they cannot use their documents for essential activities requiring proof of citizenship.

The following are three examples of people who grew up as Dominican citizens but are now "under investigation" because of their Haitian ancestry:

    Ángel is a talented baseball player and was offered a contract by the US baseball team, the San Francisco Giants. Officials at the registry office refused his request for an official copy of his full birth certificate, informing him that his documents are under investigation because he is of Haitian origin. Since he could not get a passport, he lost the contract with the Giants.
    Altagracia is a good student who cannot go to university because the registry office refused her request for an official copy of her birth certificate. The office informed her that it was because her surname is Haitian.
    Teresa was refused a birth certificate for her 6-month-old baby because of her Haitian surname. She had registered her first 3 children previously without problems.

All of these people were born in the Dominican Republic and had been issued Dominican birth certificates and identity documents by Dominican registry offices.

There are also many cases of refusals of identity card renewal applications by Dominicans of Haitian descent. In 2004, for administrative reasons, the Central Electoral Board extended all identity cards scheduled to expire in 2006 for two years to June 2008. Therefore, in June hundreds of thousands of identity cards will need to be renewed. Serious concerns exist about what will happen when Dominicans of Haitian descent seek to renew their identity cards.

Conduct Investigations with Due Process

In March 2007 the Dominican government issued Circular No. 17, a directive requiring registry offices to investigate any birth certificates that had been issued "irregularly" to children of foreigners "who had not proved their legal residence or status in the Dominican Republic." In practice this circular is being used to de-nationalize Haitians’ descendants, as registry offices are equating being of Haitian descent with fraud.

At present these investigations lack due process. People are not informed that their documents are "under investigation," so they have no opportunity to appeal the decision. Most find out by chance when they request official copies of birth certificates and are refused because of the alleged "investigation." It is still unclear how many people are currently in this legal limbo.

Dominican officials have stated that it is too expensive to notify individuals that their cases are under investigation. Under international law lack of resources is not accepted as an excuse for a state to deny due process to individuals. If the Dominican Republic is going to carry out investigations that can potentially result in the loss of a person’s nationality, it must inform them in writing, and allow an effective right of appeal to a court. Under Dominican law only a judge can investigate the validity of identity documents and make a determination of Dominican nationality, not registry offices or the Central Electoral Board.

Dispel the Myths

Descendants of Haitians who live in the Dominican Republic do not all have access to Haitian nationality, despite the Dominican government’s over-simplified claims to the contrary. Under the Haitian Constitution and Haiti’s 1984 law on nationality, the following groups of people of Haitian origin born outside of Haiti will not have automatic access to Haitian nationality:

    Children of Haitian asylum-seekers and refugees, since their parents have "renounced their nationality."
    Grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Haitians, since their parents have to be "native-born Haitians."
    Children who have only one parent who is Haitian.
    Children of Haitian parents who do not have identity documents (without which they cannot prove they are "native-born Haitians"). Few Haitians in the Dominican Republic have identity documents because Haitian civil registry offices have barely functioned for years.
    People previously registered as citizens of other countries and who now wish to recover their Haitian nationality; they must reside in Haiti for five years, before applying for naturalization.

In addition, many Dominicans of Haitian ancestry have no connection to Haiti. Having grown up in Dominican culture, they speak Spanish and may not speak Haitian Creole, and Haiti is a foreign country to them.

Establish a Regularization Plan

The 2004 Migration Law requires the government to develop a regularization plan that would give citizenship or legal residence to "non-residents" who meet certain requirements. This would not apply to Dominicans of Haitian origin, but to Haitian migrants. The Dominican government has not yet produced a regularization plan. It should do so without further delay and should consult with affected communities concerning its formulation.

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