Dominican Citizenship Law: One Year Later

Panelists Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste and Samuel Martinez at the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York meeting. (Photo by Vania Andre via Haitian Times)

Panelists Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste and Samuel Martinez at the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York meeting. (Photo by Vania Andre via Haitian Times)

A year ago, the Dominican Constitutional Court issued a ruling that stripped Dominicans of Haitian descent of citizenship – a move that affected upwards of 200,000 people. On the anniversary of that ruling, the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York (HALANY) met to discuss its aftermath, Vania Andre reports in The Haitian Times.

The ruling was followed by strong international pressure to overturn it, and eight months later the Dominican Congress passed a law that would allow those who possessed birth certificates — about 24,000 people, according to the government — to regain their citizenship. However, those without birth certificates would have to prove that they were born in the Dominican Republic and apply for citizenship.

As Andre describes in her article, obtaining a birth certificate can be a years-long process. She tells the story of Tiramen Bosico Cofi, who took 12 years to obtain a Dominican birth certificate for her daughter Violeta.

Unable to afford delivering her children at a hospital, Cofi gave birth at the Social Insurance Maternity Clinic and decided she would apply for her daughter Violeta’s official birth certificate at a later date – a common practice in the Dominican Republic at the time of her daughter’s birth in 1986.

When Cofi had scrounged up enough money to make the trip into the city to register Violeta, she went to the Registry Office accompanied by Genaro Rincon Miesse, a legal advisor to Moviemiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitianas, to request late registration for Violeta.

Miesse provided officials with Cofi’s Dominican identification card and Violeta’s birth confirmation issued by the local mayor. Despite having the necessary documents believed to confirm nationality, Cofi’s daughter was denied her Dominican citizenship, with the Registry clerk commenting on Violeta’s “strange” Haitian and “Africanized” last name.

Lawyers at the panel noted that such cases are emblematic of the particular problem facing individuals of Haitian descent who were born in the Dominican Republic.

“Dominican-Haitians are struggling not only for legal citizenship, but also for cultural citizenship,” Dr. Samuel Martinez of the University of Connecticut, said. “Dominican authorities want the world to think it’s an immigration issue, but it’s not.”

What’s more, it is not unusual for people to not be issued a birth certificate automatically.

Typically children are registered within 60 days of their birth; however in shanty makeshift towns like the bateye [a poorly maintained settlement built around a sugar cane plantation] where Violeta was born, town dwellers often times can’t afford the trip to register their children, Martinez said. “Late registration is often the only way that Dominican-Haitians have of obtaining an official birth certificate.”

For more on continuing problems for Haitians born in the Dominican Republic, and what the lawyers at the panel had to say about Dominican laws that consider residents to be “in transit,” go to Haitian Times.

One Comment

  1. rensenbregar says:

    Marie Claude Jean Baptiste is an Alumni of the City University of New York’s International Studies Program.

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