Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court-Added COMMENTARY By Haitian-Truth

Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Ny Times By

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — For generations, people of Haitian descent have been an inextricable part of life here, often looked at with suspicion and dismay, but largely relied on all the same to clean rooms, build things cheaply and provide the backbreaking labor needed on the country’s vast sugar plantations.

Now, intensifying a long and furious debate over their place in this society, the nation’s top court has declared that the children of undocumented Haitian migrants — even those born on Dominican soil decades ago — are no longer entitled to citizenship, throwing into doubt the status of tens of thousands of people here who have never known any other national identity.

“I am Dominican,” said Ana María Belique, 27, who was born in the Dominican Republic and has never lived anywhere else, but has been unable to register for college or renew her passport because her birth certificate was no longer accepted. “I don’t know Haiti. I don’t have family or friends there. This is my home.”

Children born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents, whose citizenship is affected after a ruling of the nation’s top court. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

In a broad order that has reverberated across the hemisphere, the court has instructed the authorities here to audit all of the nation’s birth records back to June 1929 to determine who no longer qualifies for citizenship, setting off international alarm.

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees warned that the decision “may deprive tens of thousands of people of nationality,” while the regional alliance of Caribbean nations, which the Dominican Republic has sought to join, condemned how masses of people are “being plunged into a constitutional, legal and administrative vacuum.”

“It is remarkably sweeping in terms of numbers: over 200,000 made stateless — a staggering figure,” said Laura Bingham, who tracks citizenship issues for the Open Society Justice Initiative. She and other legal experts called it one of the more sweeping rulings denying nationality in recent years.

To some extent, the ruling, issued Sept. 23, and the intensity of emotions around it carry echoes of the immigration debate in the United States and other countries, with wide disagreement on how to treat migrant workers and their children.

But given the history of the Dominican Republic and Haiti — a sometimes cooperative, often tense and occasionally violent relationship between two nations sharing one island — the decision has brought to the surface a unique set of racial tensions and resentment toward the waves of impoverished Haitian migrants that fill menial jobs on this side of the border.

An estimated 200,000 people born in this country have Haitian parents, according to the last census, by far the largest immigrant group here and thus the one most widely affected by the ruling. Haitian immigrants occupy the lowest rungs of society here, and have for generations, living in urban slums or squalid sugar plantation camps where wage abuse remains common, as a United States Department of Labor report found last month.

For decades, Haitians, housed in remote shantytowns known as bateys, were brought over on contracts for sugar plantations to cut cane under the blistering sun. Many still labor in the fields, while others work as maids, construction workers and in other low-paying jobs.

Many Haitians proudly embrace the slave rebellion that led to Haiti’s founding as a nation. But Dominicans, although they rushed aid to Haiti after its devastating 2010 quake and maintain many cultural and social exchanges, historically have viewed their neighbors with qualms, identifying more with their nation’s Spanish colonial past and, despite their own racially mixed heritage, often deriding anyone with dark skin as “Haitian.”

“The Dominican Republic is at a crossroads right now over the question, ‘What does it mean to be Dominican in the 21st century?’ ” said Edward Paulino, a historian at John Jay College who has studied the relationship between the two countries. “It is a country of immigrants, but no other group is like the Haitians, which arrived with the cultural baggage of a history of black pride in a country that chose to identify with the European elite.”

Top officials in the government met on Wednesday to determine how to carry out the ruling, which cannot be appealed. In the meantime, the migration director, José R. Taveras, said that people in limbo would be issued temporary residency permits while the country comes up with a plan to grant them some form of immigrant status. But to many people, that means losing the benefits of citizenship, which beyond basics like voting also allows for lower tuition at state colleges and public health insurance for low-income citizens.

Although Haiti technically bestows citizenship on the children of its nationals, the process can be full of bureaucratic entanglements and slowed by missing or incomplete records, let alone the fact that few of the children of migrants here consider themselves anything but Dominican.

The battle has been in the making for years. People born on Dominican soil, with some exceptions, generally were granted citizenship for generations. But people of Haitian descent often complained of discriminatory practices when getting official documents, and in recent decades the country’s civil registry officials often excluded the children of migrants whose papers were in question by considering their parents “in transit.”

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2005 denounced the practice as a way of discriminating against people who had been in the country for a lifetime. Still, the Dominican Republic enshrined the rule in 2010 by a constitutional amendment that excludes the Dominican-born children of those in the country illegally, including seasonal and temporary workers, from Dominican citizenship. The new court decision not only ratifies the change, but also goes a step further by ordering officials to audit the nation’s birth records, compile a list of people who should not qualify for citizenship and notify embassies when a person’s nationality is in question.

Legal experts, as well as two dissenting judges on the constitutional court, called it a violation of legal principles to retroactively apply the standard of citizenship established in the 2010 Constitution. “As a consequence of this restrictive interpretation and its retroactive application, this ruling declares the plaintiff as a foreigner in the country where she was born,” wrote one of the dissenting judges, Isabel Bonilla.

The case arose from Juliana Deguis, a 29-year-old woman born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian migrants and working as a maid. She sought her national identity card, using her Dominican birth certificate, but was rejected because the document indicated that her parents were Haitian migrants, not legal residents. Legal advocates for Haitian migrants and their children took the case to court, arguing that Ms. Deguis’s parents were residents because they had been contracted to work on a sugar plantation and never returned to Haiti, but the court ruled that they were “in transit.”

That came as a surprise to Ms. Deguis, her family and her neighbors, who have scratched out a living for decades in a remote village populated by former sugar-cane workers. Ms. Deguis has never been to Haiti, only knows a few words of Creole and never thought of herself as anything other than Dominican. “I feel terrible because I cannot work without my ID card and without that the school may not register my children either,” she said.

Supporters of the decision, including the immigration commissioner, said it would help the government regularize people and clarify the citizenship rules. The archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, called the ruling just and nodded to a sentiment among some Dominicans that international organizations were meddling in their affairs.

“International organizations don’t rule here,” he told reporters after the ruling was announced. “I don’t accept anybody coming here to decree anything. No country, not the United States, not France, nobody. Here, we are in charge.”

For now, Dominicans caught up in the ruling await the next steps. Ms. Deguis is not working and worries about caring for her four young children, all born in the Dominican Republic as well. “If there is now this confusion about me,” she asked, “what about them?”


The whistle for this train wreck has been blowing, for some time, but no one has paid any attention.
Via his cousin, Max Bellerive, the Dominican intelligence agent, Martelly accepted his first bribe from Dominican Senator Bautista, Since then – in spite of international offers of help, Martelly has created an impossible situation in which some 300,000 people may be deported into our already wrecked economy.
Some years ago, the Dominican Republic changed its focus from sugar to tourism. This change removed the need for cheap Haitian SLAVE LABOR. Now, to rid their economy of this burden, the Dominicans have created laws under which they can “cleanse” their nation of any questionable elements, back to 1929.
This mirrors the 1937 Dominican massacre in which some 37,000 Haitians were murdered over a few days by forces of  Dominican President Trujillo.
Over 300,000 people may be dumped on the Haitian economy with no way to support them. The economy cannot support thjose who are already here and we actually have people starving to death in the northwest.
The International Community should declare the Dominican Republic a pariah
and cut off economic ties and Tourism should be boycotted.
Haiti is the DR’s biggest customer.
We should close the border to any movement, in either direction.


Author: `

15 thoughts on “Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court-Added COMMENTARY By Haitian-Truth

  1. At this instant 11:28 June 23, 2015 over 15,000 Dominican (Haitians) are dumped on the Dominican side of the Belladere border crossing, awaiting expulsion. The number grows by the hour.

    Similar grouping are being collected at all other border-crossings.

    These Nazis must be stopped.

  2. The archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, called the ruling just and nodded to a sentiment among some Dominicans that international organizations were meddling in their affairs.

    “International organizations don’t rule here,” he told reporters after the ruling was announced. “I don’t accept anybody coming here to decree anything. No country, not the United States, not France, nobody. Here, we are in charge.”


  3. It is very simple.Our Dominican President gets rid of unwanted persons and knows the world community will take care of them. If the world community does not, the unwanted will die on Haitian land.In a sort while all will be forgotten.


    Haiti and Dominican Republic resume talks on controversial Constitutional Court ruling
    Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | 3:22 PM

    CARACAS, Venezuela (CMC) — Haiti and the Dominican Republic have agreed to establish a joint commission to discuss the migration problem caused by a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic that has the effect of rendering stateless, thousands of people of Haitian descent residing in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country.

    Haitian President Michel Martelly and his Dominican counterpart Danilo Medina met on Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) and of PetroCaribe.
    The meeting was chaired by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
    “I announce the creation of a high-level committee with representatives of both sides to address various issues on the bilateral agenda,” Maduro said, adding that the joint commission would comprise five representatives each from the two countries.
    He said Venezuela, the United Nations, the European Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have been invited as observers.
    Maduro said the proposed commission would address issues regarding trade, migration, environment, security and the border. The purpose of such an initiative is to find a just, proper and balanced solution through which the interests and rights of all parties are protected.

    Last month, CARICOM said it would defer consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic to join the regional integration grouping following the Constitutional Court ruling.
    Leaders of the three-member CARICOM Bureau, comprising host country Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti, said the 15-member regional grouping would also seek to raise the court ruling with several bodies including the Association of Caribbean States, the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) as well as maintaining “our interest and active participation at the Organization of American States (OAS).

    On September 23, the Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo has ruled in favour of stripping citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. The decision applies to those born after 1929 — a category that overwhelmingly includes descendants of Haitians brought in to work on farms.

    But in defending the ruling, Dominican Republic officials said it ends uncertainty for children of Haitian immigrants, allowing them to apply for residency and eventually for citizenship.
    The Geneva-based office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on authorities in Santo Domingo to ensure that the ruling did not leave persons of Haitian descent in “constitutional limbo”.

    A United Nations-supported study, released this year, estimated that there were around 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and another 34,000 born to parents of other nationalities.
    However, the Government of the Dominican Republic estimates that around 500,000 people born in Haiti live in the Dominican Republic.

    St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who had written two letters to Medina on the issue, had informed his CARICOM colleagues that quiet diplomacy would not get the Dominican Republic to change its position.

  5. While I normally agree with the points of view on this website, this particular display is quite one-sided and unfair. Working in both the D.R. and Haiti, I feel this situation has been handled as fairly as possible. Yes, there are about 270,000 Haitian Dominicans who will eventually be “regularized” under this program, but there are also close to 300,000 Haitians in the DR who have crossed the border since 2010 either without documentation, or overstayed visas(work/education), or came to give birth at a DR hospital(this is a “cottage industry” at the border to pay a bribe to cross and go directly to one of the DR hospitals which by law cannot refuse a maternity patient) and did not leave afterward. This is the reality of some of these immigration figures which are used in this article.

    Please relay an accurate picture which also should report the DR is fairly treating ALL FOREIGNERS who are in the DR illegally, as the DR rightfully insists on maintaining the sovereignty and integrity of its borders. It is a shame the USA didn’t enforce its own border integrity like this about 15 years ago. To insist on border integrity and the right of a nation to control LEGAL immigration does not make a government, or its citizens racist-enough of the blame game here. Haiti needs to provide economic opportunities for all of its citizens; because it has failed so greatly in this endeavor, people leave its shores and lands in desperation. If everyone in Haiti who wanted to leave this impoverished country was able to cross into the DR, without immigration/border documentation, there would be an exodus of at least 30% of the population. While the DR is a growing vibrant economy, it can barely handle its own population of 9 million in terms of healthcare and education. It cannot be responsible for fixing Haiti’s social problems as well.

    I truly love both of these countries, and very much want to see Haitian success and prosperity, but this website is not presenting a fair depiction of the realities in this particular situation.

    1. Marisol- While you may feel that this action is justified, you fail to consider that these Haitians and their Dominican born children were working their lives to benefit Dominican interests, and to earn Dominican businesses larger, more efficient profits. You fail to notice/mention that these same Haitians have been subjected to the worst racism and abuse in the Dominican Republic, by it’s citizens and it’s government.

      That racism has been there for hundreds of years. I know that MANY THOUSANDS of USA tourists come to the Dominican Republic to have sex with underaged girls, and to buy lots of cheap cocaine. Perhaps you could elaborate on how other nationalities illegal immigrants matter at all one bit to how the racists on the other side of the border are treating their own naturalized born citizens?

  6. Marisol.

    Nice letter – thank you.

    But how can you justify deporting the great-great-great grand daughter – with her two babies – as someone “in transit.?”

    Her original family arrived in 1930 and all of the generation have been born there, speaking nothing but Spanish, with no existing connections to today’s Haiti.

    I agree that borders should be controlled.

    However, by the tone of your writing, you are well-educated and probably eat three good meals per day, plus a few snacks if you want them.

    The DR treats me very well – I am white.

    The blacker you are – Dominican or Haitian – the more likely you are to experience prejudice. I speak from almost 30 years of intimate experience, having spent that much time between these two nations.

    The prejudice is deep.

    37,000 Haitians were murdered in 1937 – during an earlier Cleansing.

    Our reporting is drawn from what is out there.

    If we are wrong – then everyone else out there is wrong – except for the Dominicans.

    Sad but true

    A lot of people will die because of this situation.

    1. holy god, the dominicans are not correct they are devils in mans skin

  7. I understand all of your view points above and my experience with both countries also goes back to the early 1980’s as well. First of all, if the person you mention is truly a great,great, great granddaughter and these are her children, I can assure you she would certainly fit the criteria for “regularization”- how is it possible that after 5 generations in the DR this person has no documentation of presence there to go and apply with- such as hospital bills, receipts from ANYTHING from 5 generations??? I will personally help this person with the process if you like because I am calling false reporting on someone being “deported” who is a 5th generation Dominican of Haitian descent”.

    It also needs to be recognized that the ultimate responsibility for this situation still belongs to the Haitian state which consistently fails to provide an economic environment in which its citizens can live and survive. I think we can all agree that Haiti has been an economic disaster for decades; however is it fair to insist that the DR assume so much of the burden of this perpetual economic fiasco next door? This is where I do understand some of the Dominican resentment. To fan the flames of racism by bringing up the Parsley Massacre brings nothing constructive to this discussion; the referral in the commentary above about the US tourists coming to the DR for pedophile sex and cocaine is also non-sequitur.

    I was simply presenting my opinion on this editorial; drama gets Haiti nowhere but rather seems to be the predictable response in a cycle of self-denial.

    1. dominicans are racist on the higher average towards haitians,this is fact

  8. PS I also don’t like to break this down to a “black or white” thing but I come from a very “mixed” family; my husband is very “dark”- I was never raised where these things matter, and my friends in the US/DR/Haiti are also well “mixed”. Where I was raised and how I was raised in the US and Europe, these “skin” things didn’t matter.

    Sadly I feel the need to qualify my color “sensitivity” with this group in order to avoid the label of “racist”.

  9. Marisol

    Of course the Haitian governments, now, and in the past, have been responsible for their disinterest in what happens to the lower end of the Haitian population.

    When 37,000 were massacred by the Dominicans, the Haitian government of Lescot finally managed a settlement that amount to $0.75 per murdered person. Fertilizer costs more per pound!

    And this money was stolen by the government.

    The present situation has been festering since the early 2000’s and started to focus in 2005. During a meeting in Venezuela President Martelly was offered the backing of CARICOM, the UN, OAS and a band of others in the fight against discrimination.

    Martelly said he would handle it bilaterally and did this by accepting a bundle of cash.

    In America you can acquire documentation, rapidly.

    In the DR a person will stand in line – for days – to acquire some paper. One the next visit – the Dominican bureaucrat will say the first paper is the wrong one – and tear it up. No future here.

    Please believe me, and I come from a mixed family background that goes from charbon to blan, the prejudice in the DR far exceeds anything ever found in the backwoods of Alabama.

    There is no real solution to this.

    However, the International Community can apply pressures that see trade barriers and attempted tourism boycotts.

    But you know, in the final analysis, tourism will not be damaged as the personal greed of people to get the best deal will still see them flocking to cheap hotels in the DR.

  10. I read about the first 7 pages-while I understand that there have been instances where prejudice has unfairly shaped justice and immigration policies in the DR, it is wrong to continue editorializing with such broad strokes; in addition you allow no possibility for remedy or changes. Not all Dominicans are the racist “devils” these conversations seems to label them. I think this past six months has put the DR in the spotlight on this entire issue, and the response has been more transparency and more fairness than ever. I think it will continue. I work very hard in both private industry in the DR, and also for NGOs involved in the areas of healthcare and Human Trafficking in Haiti; I meet good and bad people in both countries, but I do think you are all judging the whole Dominican people a bit unfairly.

    There are also several large infrastructure projects involving Dominican entrepreneurs/partnerships, such as the tourism/airport infrastructure development of Cote d’Fer, that would provide many jobs and income to Haitians, that unfortunately cannot be started without a legitimate government in session. The success of both nations depends on Haiti succeeding in the economic development of its natural resources; one of which is its beautiful beaches. It can be done but everyone needs to tone down the race-baiting and roll up their sleeves. Fair and honest elections would be a nice start-

    I don’t have all the answers obviously, and it seems I have very little to say here which will please anyone on this site, but perhaps my naivete has been the expectation of some discussion without some of the “extremes” heretofore expressed . Cambio y fuera.

  11. Marisol
    I am Dominican and ashamed.
    I passed via the border today and found tens of thosands crowded there, in the sun. Someone said there were 50,000 children in the mass.
    Our government, and that of Haiti, are to blame.
    There is constant bias against darker skins in my nation. My husband is black and I am sometimes harassed by police for being with a Haitian, until they realise he is Dominican, ex-military Dominican.
    It is charming to see your kind attitude towards reality.
    Unfortunately the true reality is a strong bias against anything Haitian.
    You claim to work closely on both sides of the border, but your border must be on Mars.
    I am familiar with Cote d’Fer and the cash being wasted on a huge 4 lane (perhaps 6 lane) road where 2 would be more than sufficient.

    This is Martelly’s home town and has resorts that stand empty, like ghost towns.
    The entire situation is sad.
    The situation is not improving as the Dominican government continues to bus deportees to the border where there is not water, cover or sanitary facilities.
    Get your NGO friends to say something to the media.

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