The following are excerpts of a petition that is being disseminated by academics and writers of New York to try to reverse Ruling 168 by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic. With over 700 signatures so far, the text was written by Sophie Mariñez (Borough of Manhattan Community College CUNY).
We, Dominican and Haitian Academics and Writers of the New York area, in coalition with friends and supporters of all nationalities, are deeply disturbed and outraged by the recent ruling of the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court. This new ruling requires the most appalling review of all Dominican birth certificates, from 1929 onwards, to identify citizens born of “undocumented” foreigners so that they can be stripped of their nationality. Given the history of the nation, it is clear that this measure is exclusively directed at the children of Haitians born in the Dominican Republic.
Issued on September 23, 2013, despite the staunch opposition of two female judges of this Court, the ruling claims its legitimacy on the grounds that, according to the Dominican Constitution of 1929, children from parents who are “in transit” in the country cannot bear the Dominican nationality. It capitalizes on a poor definition of the term “in transit” to identify workers “temporarily” hired by the Dominican government and sugar cane plantation owners, but who in fact have stayed in the country for decades, working for the same companies, creating cultural and affective bonds, families and lives. Deprived for almost a century from the possibility of becoming legal residents, these “temporarily” workers, all of whom are of Haitian origin, have remained in the margins of Dominican society while still painfully contributing to the production of the nation’s wealth. Until the September court ruling, this unspeakable situation only affected the first-generation of immigrants, as their children were able to break from this bondage and become, by virtue of jus soli, full citizens of the country.
The ruling violates basic principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, notably Article 15, which stipulates that everyone has the right to a nationality, and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality. It violates the resolution by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that defines the term “transit” as being a reasonable length of stay in a country, not decades; and it also violates an article of the 2010 Dominican Constitution establishing the non-retroactivity of new provisions affecting descendants of undocumented parents.
This new ruling emerges after two decades of a migratory policy that permitted thousands of undocumented Haitians to enter the Dominican Republic to become cheap labor in the agriculture (primarily sugar), construction and tourism industries. Lacking any protection by Dominican labor laws, these workers have been subject to all kinds of abusive practices. As the use of such undocumented labor also lowers wages and displaces Dominicans from many jobs, resentment has built among those who believe this new ruling can resolve the “migration problem.” [. . .] Yet, these feelings have been encouraged by those who will benefit from a larger pool of undocumented workers. With the new ruling, children born of undocumented parents will no longer be able to go to school, get a formal job or insurance, open a bank account, travel, nor live in any other official manner as Dominica ns. Many of these second- and third-generation Haitian-Dominicans do not speak Creole, have never been to Haiti nor have contact with relatives there. At the same time, despite the racist propaganda by an elite that has always benefited from this, the truth is that a large majority of Dominicans have lived in peaceful relation with Haitians and Dominican-Haitians. And the current state of affairs has distressed many who see that nothing but the worst can result from such an appalling ruling.
We refuse to remain silent in the face of this new, ultra-refined form of abuse, and share the concern of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that this recent ruling will deprive many Haitian-Dominicans of their human right to citizenship. With this statement, we join the efforts made by all concerned citizens in the Dominican Republic, in Haiti and in the world who call on the Dominican Constitutional Court to reverse its recent ruling.