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Embassy of the Dominican Republic

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Respuesta al artículo del periódico New York Times: "Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court"

 

Dear Sir,

Your article of October, 24, “Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court”, misrepresents the meaning and scope of the ruling issued by the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Tribunal on September, 23.

Unlike the United States, the Dominican Republic does not grant citizenship to all those born within its jurisdiction. Indeed, the United States is one of only a handful of countries to do so, while in most of the world nationality is passed on by descent or bestowed only under certain conditions. Since 1929, the Dominican Republic Constitution has limited the right to nationality to the children of those in the country with a non-transient, legal resident status. Your article neglects to mention that this criteria was reaffirmed in a Supreme Court ruling of 2005, as well as subsequently restated in our Constitution of 2010. The Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling this year merely confirms the interpretation provided by previous court rulings and its implementation by the authorities in their efforts to improve compliance with the country’s immigration policy.

Like all states with significant immigration populations, the Dominican Republic has a legitimate interest in regulating immigration and having clear rules for the acquisition of its citizenship, both to ensure internal stability and to guarantee that migrants’ rights are adequately protected. The Dominican Republic cannot be asked to abandon its immigration policy or be pressured by outside actors and other countries to implement measures contrary to its own Constitution and which would be unacceptable to most other nations facing similar immigration pressures.

The Dominican government is fully aware of its international obligations and of the human dimension of the plight of the children of illegal Haitian migrants born in the country who lack identity documents. This does not, however, render them stateless. Haiti operates solely under the jus sanguinis principle; as your article admits, its Constitution bestows Haitian citizenship on any person born of Haitian parents anywhere in the world. This means both that a child born in Haiti to foreign parents does not enjoy the right to Haitian nationality and that the Haitian State has the obligation to document as Haitian the children of its citizens regardless of their place of birth. The responsibility for the consequences of Haiti’s difficulties in documenting its citizens cannot be laid at the feet of our country. Indeed, the Dominican Republic has made efforts to support the Haitian authorities in improving their capacity to regulate their civil registry, including offering Haitian officials free access to facilities in the Dominican Republic to carry out registration work.

Your article alleges long-standing discrimination against Haitian migrants in granting them citizenship. The reality is that any inconsistent actions in the granting of documentation is the result of the Dominican Republic’s decades-long struggle to correctly implement its immigration policies and legislation in the face of institutional weaknesses that have historically affected its own civil registry. Moreover, given that children born in the country with at least one legally-resident migrant parent are and will continue to be Dominican, the numbers of persons not eligible to obtain Dominican documentations have been dramatically overstated.

A key component of the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling was a mandate to provide persons affected with temporary residence permits until a regularization plan is in place. These allow them to remain and work in the country, and routes will be provided to obtain residency or citizenship in accordance with individual conditions. Each case will be carefully examined and subject to judicial due process, and speculation about mass deportations is therefore entirely baseless.

There is no question that the Dominican economy has benefited from immigrant labor. It is also fair to point out, however, that for many decades these migrants have also had unrestricted access to public education and health care in the Dominican Republic, without the need to present documentation or prove their legal status in the country. Overall about 15% of the health budget is spent on care for foreign citizens, and in some border-area hospitals, 50% of births are to Haitian mothers. Some may be longer-term migrants, others will have recently crossed the extremely porous border to obtain services from the Dominican public system that the Haitian State is simply not able to provide its own citizens.

 

The Dominican Republic and Haiti may have a fractious history. Recent events, including the solidarity shown by all sectors of 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 both at the government and private sector levels. They will continue to do so despite the insistence of sectors of the press and others in perpetuating a sense of crisis between the countries.