Community leaders in Washington Heights condemned a decision by the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court, which would strip citizenship from thousands of children of Haitian immigrants born in the Dominican Republic.
Organizations in northern Manhattan said the ruling, which cannot be appealed, violates the most basic human rights. They described it as xenophobic and “civil genocide.”
The Central Electoral Board has one year to prepare a list of people born after 1929, who would lose their Dominican nationality.
“It’s disgraceful, ridiculous, and highly discriminatory,” said activist Miriam Mejía of Casa Verde Camila in a speech, expressing the opinion of a coalition of organizations. “We Dominican immigrants in the United States, who demand immigration reform, are outraged that the right to citizenship is being denied to people in our own country.”
Leaders from around 10 Dominican and pro-immigrant groups gathered in front of Boricua College, at 156th Street and Broadway, to raise awareness of the approaching human rights crisis following the court’s decision on September 25.
It is estimated that four generations of descendants of undocumented Haitian immigrants will be affected.
Luis Rodríguez of La Aurora Community Action said the conservative policies of the Dominican Supreme Court brings up for discussion what would the U.S.-born children of undocumented Dominicans face in a similar situation here.
“We wouldn’t have the moral ground to demand that our right to citizenship be respected when it’s being violated in our own country in such a degrading and ridiculous way,” he expressed. “We urge international organizations to challenge the decision.”
The leaders stressed that the measure would leave thousands of Dominican-Haitians in limbo, without papers and facing possible deportation to Haiti, a country many of them don’t know. It is estimated that people of Haitian descent make up around 10 percent of the population, according to recent data from the Ministry of Economy.
Activists and leaders of northern Manhattan said they will continue to hold events in support of El Centro Bono in the Dominican Republic, the main advocacy group for the affected population.
Dominican immigrants shared the community leaders’ concern. Natividad Álvarez, 64, who came to New York 24 years ago, lamented that the Supreme Court promotes laws she believes are racist and anti-immigrant.
“How can they deny citizenship to men and women who grew up in the Dominican Republic and contributed to the country with their hard work? That ruling seems like something Republicans would do,” said Álvarez.
On October 3 at 4:30 p.m., a protest will be held in front of the Dominican consulate at 1501 Broadway in Manhattan, as part of a series of actions rejecting the court’s decision.