NYT Editorial: Stateless in the Dominican Republic


An editorial from The New York Times . . . 

In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s highest court issued an unconscionable ruling that rendered tens of thousands of Dominican-born people of Haitian descent effectively stateless. Last year, the Dominican government, responding to international criticism, established a process that ostensibly offered them a path to be recognized as citizens. But because theapplication process was so onerous and poorly administered, tens of thousands of people remain in limbo, shunned in their homeland and unwelcome in neighboring Haiti.

The plight of the Dominican Republic’s stateless residents is a product of a complex history of the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola. It has been shaped over the decades by migration driven by fluctuating labor needs, the economic disparity between the countries and racism.

The citizenship process requires proof of birth in the Dominican Republic, which is an extremely difficult, if not impossible, requirement to meet for thousands of people of Haitian descent. Historically, as a result of racism, black people in the Dominican Republic, particularly those with Haitian ancestry, have struggled to get basic documents, including birth certificates and national identification cards, called cédulas.

The Dominican government says it has identified roughly 55,000 people who have some sort of document to support their claims of Dominican birth. It received 8,755 applications from people who did not have any original documents. To qualify for citizenship, these people had to produce extensive documentation, including notarized letters, which human rights advocates say sets too high a bar. In an emailed statement to The Times, the State Department said it was “concerned that eligible individuals may not have had sufficient time and means” to get their citizenship claims evaluated before the government stopped accepting claims in February.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated in 2014 that the Dominican Republic was home to roughly 210,000 stateless people. Dominican officials argue, unconvincingly, that the number of people who applied for legal status suggests that such estimates are exaggerated. Preposterously, they contend that no one in the Dominican Republic meets the criteria of statelessness.

President Danilo Medina, who faces re-election next year, may be reluctant to take bold steps to regularize the status of Dominicans of Haitian ancestry since many Dominicans see Haitian immigrants and their children as burdens and do not consider them compatriots.

Yet it is imperative that Mr. Medina’s administration live up to its promise not to carry out mass deportations while the citizenship and immigration status of so many people remain uncertain.

People born in the Dominican Republic should not be treated as immigrants there. The government needs to do right by them and come up with a better, fairer registration system. A basic first step would be to acknowledge the magnitude of the problem.

For the original report go to http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/opinion/stateless-in-the-dominican-republic.html?mabReward=CTM&moduleDetail=recommendations-0&action=click&contentCollection=Sports®ion=Footer&module=WhatsNext&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&configSection=article&isLoggedIn=false&src=recg&pgtype=article

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