Letter to the editor | Violation of human rights

October 10, 2013 

I monitored human rights violations while working with Reconocido, a group of Dominicans of Haitian descent who had been stripped of their citizenship and civil rights by a 2007 law.

The law suspended all identity documents for more than 40,000 “irregular” people — the children of foreigners.

These people are unable to legally marry, register the birth of children, enroll in school or graduate, open a bank account or get a driver’s license. The law applies retroactively, denying Dominican citizenship to children born in the country and removing it from people who have been lifelong Dominicans.

Until 2010, the Dominican Constitution said all children born in country were Dominican citizens, but it was amended to grant citizenship to children only if at least one parent was a legal resident. Children born to legal residents who are also Haitian are often denied citizenship. Civil registry officials often decide that the parents “are Haitian” based on skin color, accent or socio-economic background.

In September, the Constitutional Court ruled that anyone born in the country whose parents were “irregular” are no longer Dominican. This retroactively applies to anyone born in the country since 1929, taking away nationality from four generations who have been registered Dominicans under the Constitution.

It’s unclear how many thousands of Dominicans will be affected by this new ruling. For more information, check out Amnesty International, Refugee International and the United Nations websites; they have all written on the situation faced by Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Malea Hetrick

Cleveland

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