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Dominican Republic strips citizenship from Haitian descendants

Carlotta Mohamed | 11/12/2013, 12:34 p.m.

A recent Constitutional Court decision in the Dominican Republic ruled that anyone who is not of Dominican ancestry would be stripped away of their citizenship.

According to the decision, Dominicans born after 1929 to parents who are not of Dominican ancestry are to have their citizenship revoked. The ruling affects an estimated 250,000 Dominican people of Haitian descent, including many who have had no personal connection with Haiti for several generations.

The ruling will make it challenging for them to live, study, work, legally marry, register their children—and even to leave the country that now rejects them, because they cannot obtain or renew their passports, according to the National Institute for Latino Policy.

The Constitutional Court’s decision—which follows many years of resentment and mistreatment of Haitians—has in fact outraged human rights groups and raised concern in the United Nations.

The court’s action violates standards of international law and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which clearly states that people cannot be stripped of citizenship. The decision also violates Title II, Chapter 1, and Article 38 of the Constitution that says all Dominicans are entitled to the same rights regardless of gender, religion, skin color, or national origin.

The ruling is not out of character however for the Dominican government, given the racism and history between the two countries.

In the 1820's a Haitian army invaded the Dominican Republic, liberating slaves and encouraged free blacks from the United States to settle. In 1912, the Dominican government passed laws restricting the number of Black-skinned people who could enter the country, but sugar plantations searching for cheap labor still found ways to bring in many Haitians. Approximately 20,000 of these people were later massacred over a period of five days in 1937 in an attempt to “cleanse” the border .

There is still time for the international community to urge Dominican officials to exercise restraint as they review thousands of birth records ordered by the Constitutional Court.