Haitians Denounce Dominican Republic’s Birthright Citizenship Laws

The Dominican Republic’s decision to end birthright citizenship for people who are born to undocumented Haitian immigrants in the country continues to cause outrage. The Dominican government rewrote its constitution in 2010 to end birthright citizenship, though this didn’t change the status of current citizens, VICE News reported. In 2014, the constitution was revised to note that Dominicans who were born to undocumented parents between 1929 and 2007 would lose their citizenship.

According to human rights groups who spoke to “PBS NewsHour,” the new laws prohibit Dominicans of Haitian descent from voting or legally attending school or work. Baptist pastor Jesu L’Homme Exilair, 34, was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian migrants. He told PBS that he was illegally detained for six hours by Dominican immigration authorities and, because of his Haitian heritage, is no longer considered a citizen. “I'm from the Dominican Republic, I am not from Haiti. And they say no you are here, but you are Haitian,” L’Homme Exilair said.

L’Homme Exilair told PBS that after he was released, authorities gave him documentation that stated he did not belong in the country. In 2014 and 2015, people who were born to undocumented parents had to register with the government as a “foreigner” or would risk deportation, according to PBS.

“They gave me documents that say ‘foreigner.’ And in the back it says ‘cannot vote.’ I feel that shouldn't be. It is not right,” L’Homme Exilair said.

The Dominican Republic does not have an estimate of how many people have been affected by the birthright citizenship changes. However, human rights groups told PBS that thousands have been impacted by its implicit racism. Givena Reyes, who works at the Haitian rights advocacy group Centro Montalvo in the Dominican Republic, told PBS that racism is prevalent in the country.

“Racism is seen on a daily basis. When I was growing up, since I have black skin, children would call me ‘Haitian devil,’” Reyes told the news station. “They see you as less than them.” Between 2015 and 2017, more than 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants who are undocumented have left or were deported to Haiti, PBS reported. The North Star has reached out to the United Nations for comment about the end of birthright citizenship and deportation in the Dominican Republic, but did not hear back in time for publication.

The International Organization for Migration stated that 15,000 Haitian migrants have come to the Dominican Republic since 2015. A Human Rights Watch report from 2016 found that thousands of Dominicans who are Haitian are not receiving proper services, including medical assistance, and are “living in deplorable conditions” because of the deportations.

“Not only have many been deprived of their right to nationality, they are not getting the assistance they so desperately need,” Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a previous statement. “Neither the Haitian nor the Dominican government is helping some of the most vulnerable undocumented people.”

Thousands of Haitians migrated to the Dominican Republic looking for work during the 20th century, “PBS NewsHour” noted. In 1937, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo called for the execution of Haitians in the country so Dominican society would have lighter skin — between 9,000 and 20,000 Haitians were killed as a result, the BBC reported.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.