Dominican church stands with Dominicans of Haitian descent

Hundreds of thousands face statelessness

By Lynette Wilson
Posted Oct 25, 2013

[Episcopal News Service] Dominicans of Haitian descent are facing statelessness after the constitutional court of the Dominican Republic ruled ineligible for citizenship any children born of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.

Because of the court’s ruling, hundreds of thousands of descendants of immigrants, mostly from Haiti, who were born in the Dominican Republic, will no longer be recognized as citizens, said Bishop of the Dominican Republic Julio Holguín in an Oct. 25 e-mail to ENS.

“I believe that the constitutional court has made ​​a big mistake with that ruling, which violates the rights of at least four generations of descendants of immigrants, most of whom came to the Dominican Republic, by agreement between the two governments, Dominican and Haitian, to work primarily cutting sugarcane,” he said.

The Episcopal Church in the Dominican Republic serves Haitian communities throughout the country in its parishes and missions. In the November-December issue of Episcopax, the diocese’s newspaper, devotes significant space to defending the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent.

The Dominican Republic, population 10.2 million, and Haiti, population 9.8 million, share the island of Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic is slightly larger, occupying 64 percent of the island’s eastern half. For decades, Haitians have worked in the Dominican Republic’s sugarcane fields, as domestic servants and at other forms of menial labor.

On Sept. 23, the country’s constitutional court in an 11-2 decision ruled that the citizen provision in the 1929 Dominican constitution should not apply to the children of parents who were not “legal residents” at the time of their children’s birth, and, further, that subsequent generations born on Dominican soil also should be denied citizenship.

An estimated 200,000 people born of Haitian parents live in the Dominican Republic. On Oct. 24, the court instructed local authorities to “audit all of the nation’s birth records back to June 1929 to determine who no longer qualifies for citizenship,” according to an article in The New York Times.

As Holguín explained, the court’s decision invalidates not only birth certificates, but also calls into question the validity of other forms of identification, including passports, and could inhibit the ability to enroll in school and college, open a bank account, own a home, etc.

“In other words, the constitutional court has decided to establish an ‘apartheid’ in the Dominican Republic,” he said.

– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. 


Comments (8)

  1. Sanford Z. K. Hampton says:

    Absolutely shameful.
    Blessings on Bishop Holquin for standing on the right side of this issue. Hopefully, the US Government will as well.

  2. Dianne Aid, TSSF says:

    This is horrible and part of the wider global trend of denying basic human rights and throwing lives into chaos. May we as a Church stand strong in solidarity and action.

  3. Lelanda Lee says:

    This is a terrible affront to human rights and human dignity. Thank you, Bishop Holguin, for speaking out. Those affected in the Dominican Republic are in our prayers.

  4. Craig Clere says:

    What a terrible affront to human rights by the court. Whatever are these people to do? Is there anything that we can do to help these 200,000 “stateless” persons?

  5. Nancy Mott says:

    Kudos to Bishop Julio Holguin of The Episcopal Church in the Dominican Republic for speaking out boldly. And how else will TEC and the diocese of the Dominican Republic take action on this egregious act of court-sanctioned apartheid?

  6. Dianne Aid, TSSF says:

    It seems more than one network would want to take action. If anyone knows anything, please keep me in the loop as part of The Episcopal Network for Economic Justice or on Facebook Dianne Aid, TSSF

  7. Allan Chabot-Stahls says:

    In a show of support for the Dominican Diocese of the Episcopal Church we should defer all winter travel this year to the D.R. and state that as a church we agree with Bishop Holguin and will channel our tourist dollars elsewhere. We should also encourage the Department of State to verify that Dominican women applying for travel visas to the U.S. are not preganant so as to prevent them from traveling to give birth in the U.S. and thus obtaining U.S. citizenship for their own children who could have been born at home in one of their excellent hospital facilities (they have excellent hospitals – I’ve used them myself in the past!).

  8. Alex Symington says:

    This regressive fascist move by the Dominican courts has played out many times in the past. To blame/scapegoat is classic obfuscation by those in power to distract from poor governance. Works every time. I have been doing short term mission work in the DR for twenty years and have dear friends there and many of Haitian descent…How in God’s name is this ruling even possible? All it is going to do is take away any rights the Haitian community has, which are already tenuous in this state sanctioned racist environment. I am proud of the Episcopal Church of the RD for reacting as Christ would, as opposed to the Roman Catholic ruling elite’s support of “la sentencia”!

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