By Ian Van Buren
On September 23, 2013, the Dominicans Republic’s top court issued a ruling that has put thousands of individuals in trouble. The ruling found that any and all individuals of Haitian descent, even those born in the Dominican Republic, no longer hold citizenship. According to the Open Society Justice Initiative, at least 200,000 people will be affected by the decision.
As neighboring countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a history of racial tension. For generations, Haitians have migrated across the border to lead a better life, albeit one in which they are employed as maids, construction workers, and as fieldworkers on sugar cane plantations. Now, officials have ruled that even individuals who were born Dominican and have never been outside of the country can no longer be considered legal citizens if they are of Haitian descent.
Ana María Belique, 27, 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 is no longer accepted. “I am Dominican. I don’t know Haiti. I don’t have family or friends there. This is my home.”
Several reports indicate that there has long been an issue of racial discrimination against Haitians pursuing official documents, and Dominican civil registry officials have denied citizenship to children of migrants by considering their parents “in transit”.
Migrants are concerned that they won’t have access to health benefits without possession of a Dominican ID. Dominican officials have denied the claim that the court’s ruling is discriminatory.