New Law in Dominican Republic Strips Haitians of Basic Rights

Dominican Republic. New law strips Haitians of basic rights.jpg

Four articles and one background legal reference follow:

Love thy neighbour? Not when it comes to the Dominican Republic and Haiti

The Dominican Republic's introduction of a law that eliminates birthright citizenship has left many Dominico-Haitians stateless

By Christian Aid, published on the Global Development blog of The Guardian (UK) , Oct 3, 2011

Since the earthquake, the world's attention has been focused on rebuilding Haiti for those already living here. But there are thousands of Haitians living next door in the Dominican Republic whse circumstances have also taken a dramatic turn for the worse, but who are receiving far less attention.

For years, relations between the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic have been strained. The uneven development between the two countries meant there was a steady stream of Haitian workers crossing the border in search of employment even before the earthquake. While the Dominican Republic has relied on these migrant workers to provide cheap labour for their sugar cane harvests and also in the building trades, some politicians have tried to win political capital by demonising them.

This is nothing new, of course. Around the world, immigrants are routinely vilified by rightwing politicians and accused of stealing local jobs. But in the Dominican Republic, both the rhetoric and the actual discrimination against Haitian migrants are virulent – and getting worse.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the attitude radically changed and the Dominican Republic was among the first to offer aid, rushing in ambulances, medical personnel and emergency supplies. Badly injured Haitians were allowed to travel freely across the border for medical treatment.

Now, more than 18 months on, relations between the two countries have begun to cool again. Last month, Jose Ricardo Taveras, the new immigration director for the Dominican Republic, publicly complained about the influx of Haitian migrants since the quake. This spring, banners sprung up in Taveras's hometown of Santiago calling on Haitians to go home.

It is not just rhetoric, either. Over the past seven years the Dominican government has rewritten its constitution and reinterpreted old laws, effectively eliminating birthright citizenship. Since 26 January 2010, citizens must prove that they have at least one parent of Dominican nationality to be recognised. In other words, if you are a person born to undocumented Haitian parents living in the Dominican Republic, you no longer have the right to Dominican citizenship even if you have lived there your whole life.

This bureaucratic catch-22 can have dire consequences. Take Miledis Juan, who shares a tiny two-room house with her husband and one-year-old son in Batay Esperanza, a shantytown just outside the capital, Santo Domingo.

She currently operates an embroidery machine in a dingy factory in the free trade zone. Although Juan recently went to college to become a teacher and improve her circumstances, the certificate she earned is now effectively worthless. She is unable to get a teaching job because she can't obtain a fresh copy of her birth certificate. She has a national identification document and a birth certificate proving she was born in the Dominican Republic. But the government now says both are invalid because her parents were undocumented Haitians.

Juan also needs a fresh copy of her birth certificate to register the birth of her own son. Without his own birth certificate, he will not be allowed to access health services or attend school past the eighth grade.

Not only that, but the rules are being applied retroactively to people who, like Juan, have already been granted Dominican citizenship, which contravenes the American convention of human rights under the Organisation of American States, to which the Dominican Republic is a signatory.

The Dominican authorities argue that people falling foul of the new ruling should apply for Haitian citizenship, even though they may not speak Creole or ever have set foot in Haiti. In any case, Haitian rules require them to have lived in Haiti for at least five years. This means that thousands of Haitian people living in the Dominican Republic are now effectively stateless. The situation is unjust and impractical, not to mention illegal under the human rights act.

Christian Aid has been campaigning about the discrimination against Dominico-Haitians for many years. It published a 35-page report in 2006 - 'On the Margins' (pdf) - on the subject. Along with other NGOs and with the support of the UNHCR, Christian Aid is organised a conference in Washington DC on the problem of statelessness in the Dominican Republic from 25 to 28 October, 2011.

Haitians flocking in droves to Dominican side face harsher law

Dominican Today, Oct 19, 2011

Santo Domingo.- President Leonel Fernandez signed Thursday the decree on the regulation to enforce General Immigration Law 285-04, during a ceremony conducted in the offices of the Immigration Agency.

The measure comes just two weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the country on its treatment of descendants of Haitians, and amid growing concern for the massive influx nationwide of those nationals, who despite obtaining health and other free services, don’t pay taxes given their participation in an informal economy.

During the ceremony of around 25 minutes, Immigration director Jose Ricardo Taveras warned that from now on everything relating to immigration and the hiring of manpower will have to comply with that legislation. He said all those contracted will have to arrive in the country with an established type of visa and medical insurance which their employer must provide.

Ricardo Taveras said they’ll now work on the draft for a regulation of the foreigners who enter the country and another one for the civil registry, to be submitted to the President for his consideration and signature. Fernandez was accompanied by Executive Branch legal adviser Abel Rodriguez del Orbe, Presidency minister Cesar Pina Toribio and of Interior and Police, Jose Ramon Fadul.

Dominican law leaves many vulnerable

New legislation could strip people of Haitian descent their rights to education, travel and even marriage.

For a million young Dominicians with Haitian parents, a new law could strip them of not only their identity but also their rights to education, travel and even marriage. Many young Dominicans of Haitian descent lacking birth certificates say they are facing discrimination by officials in efforts to obain the document. Without it, they are unable to go apply for university, marriage or a passport.

Though Haiti has said it will offer citizenship to anyone with Haitian parents, many of the one million young Dominicans have never been to neighbouring Haiti and feel no allegiance to a nation mere miles away on the other side of the border of the same island.

Al Jazeera's Ross Velton reports from the Dominican Republic in this three-minute video:


As Refugees From Haiti Linger, Dominicans’ Good Will Fades

By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD New York Times, Aug 30, 2011

CHENE, Dominican Republic — They have been blamed for spreading cholera, taking jobs and driving up crime, and now, with memories of the earthquake and the bonhomie it generated rapidly fading, this country is taking action: it is deporting Haitian refugees, turning them away from the border and generally making their lives difficult.

The police and military near the border, with little more to go on than darker skin color and a failure to produce identification, have stopped cars and buses and forced them to Haiti, human rights groups say. The Dominicans also are using a new law to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants and deport people who had been born and lived here for years, advocacy groups contend.

The deportations are a sign of impatience with the limping recovery in Haiti and the waning international sympathy for its enduring troubles. Haiti and its international donors are far behind in helping the hundreds of thousands still living in makeshift camps and the millions without formal jobs, a crisis worsened by a political stalemate that has blocked Haiti’s new president, Michel Martelly, from forming a new government more than 100 days after taking office.

“It’s kind of an unsolvable issue,” said Robert Maguire, a Haiti scholar at George Washington University. “The truth is when Haitians leave, to the Dominican Republic and other places, they tend to do well or at least better than in Haiti, so they keep leaving.”

Several countries bestowed an effective grace period on Haitian migrants and refugees after the earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, but that appears to be ending. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recently urged countries to reverse a new wave of deportations to Haiti because conditions remain precarious there. Haiti “cannot yet ensure adequate protection or care especially for some vulnerable groups in case of return,” the statement said.

Deportees have also come from Jamaica and the Bahamas, according to aid organizations in Haiti. The United States resumed deporting Haitians several months after the quake, and American immigration officials say they expect to deport some 700 this year, focusing on people convicted of crimes.

Dominican officials say they have borne the brunt of both quake refugees and recent economic migrants, adding to a steady flow of people from Haiti who have slipped through the porous border for decades to cut sugar cane, harvest coffee beans, work construction and do other low-wage jobs.

Last week, José Ricardo Taveras, the nation’s new immigration director, a member of a political party known for its hard line on immigration, lashed out at the United Nations for failing to slow the influx. Last month, he cited estimates of the 500,000 or more Haitians in this country, telling local journalists that “nobody can resist an invasion of that nature” and that thousands of Haitians had been deported.

Right after the earthquake, the Dominican Republic, a nation with a history of both conflict and cooperation with Haiti, its poorer sibling on the island of Hispaniola, was among the first to offer aid. It sent teams to assess the damage and deliver food and medicine, eased visa requirements to allow the injured into Dominican hospitals and opened staging areas for relief shipments.

The good will was a welcome departure from the notorious low points between the neighbors — most notably the massacre of thousands of Haitians by the Dominican military in 1937 — and raised hopes of a tighter bond. But the unemployment rate is high here — at about 14 percent last year, it is among the highest in Latin America — and cholera, which has killed nearly 6,000 in Haiti since October, has killed more than 90 in the Dominican Republic, many of them Haitian migrants.

This spring, banners sprang up in Santiago, Mr. Taveras’s hometown, calling on Haitians to go home. Protests erupted over the refugees’ presence, and a number of migrants fled. “We are defending our sovereignty because Dominican manpower has been practically eliminated in construction,” Juan Francisco Consuegra, a community leader there, told reporters during a demonstration.

The tension became pitched enough that the International Organization for Migration offered a way out: paying Haitians $50 apiece, plus additional relocation assistance, to go home willingly. More than 1,500 have gone back through the program. “Anything is better than the conditions we are in now,” said Bernier Noel, who registered to leave. The earthquake flattened his house in Haiti. Now he cannot wait to return.

Mr. Noel arrived here with friends a few months after the earthquake, after hearing that jobs and money were plentiful. He lives in a lean-to, bathes in bug-infested water and picks coffee beans at an unrelenting pace under an unforgiving sun for about $3 a day. Never did he imagine that the devastation he saw in Haiti would seem a step up, but at least there are friends willing to take him in while he tries to revive a meager business selling shoes on the street.

Dominican officials said they had gone out of their way to assuage the crisis in Haiti. The deportations, they insist, are aimed at recent arrivals and, in the case of numerous children found to have been smuggled in to beg or work as prostitutes, have been done with the help of nongovernmental organizations.

Alejandra Hernández, the minister counselor at the Dominican Embassy in Washington, said Dominican health authorities spent more than $11 million for emergency aid in the month after the earthquake, and $27 million in 2010. But refugees are now an economic burden, Ms. Hernández said, using health, police and other services. Their arrival “follows a long-established pattern of economic migration, which for years has placed great demands on our country’s capacity,” she said, noting that in the first half of 2010, one-sixth of all live births in her country’s public hospitals were to Haitian mothers.

For Haitians in the Dominican Republic, life is getting tougher, which may be the point. Gabriel G. Teodoro, 31, said he lost his job as a messenger at a law firm because he could not renew his national identity card. Although born in the Dominican Republic — and ignorant of the Haitian language or culture — he was turned away at the immigration office under the new law because his parents were illegal immigrants, Mr. Teodoro said. “This country benefits from our labor, but I am being denied because of my Haitian heritage,” he said. His is one of dozens of cases human rights advocates are appealing.

On a recent morning here, a stream of Haitian migrants walked out from their hovels in the brush to fill a church and register to leave under the International Organization for Migration’s program. Pedite François came clutching his 14-month-old daughter, Cedita. “It is hard to find work,” he said. “A day without work is a day without food.”

* 2005 background document on the legal status of Haitians in the DR.
Published in Human Rights Brief, Washington College of Law, Vol 13, Issue 2, Winter 2006: HRB Vol 13, Issue 2: Article: