In September 2013, the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court issued a ruling that redefined its conditions for citizenship, putting Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent at risk of deportation and statelessness. A research team at Johns Hopkins University recently released a report about the potential effects of the Dominican government’s actions and its problematic implementation. It also includes policy recommendations to address immigration and citizenship issues amidst the tense historical relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the “unfavorable” political climate on the ground. The report is the product of an academic yearlong experiential learning course in the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
Click HERE for the full document.
Justice Derailed: The Uncertain Fate of Haitian Migrants and Dominicans of Haitian Descent in the Dominican Republic
International Human Rights Clinic, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Over time, the Dominican Republic formalized a more restrictive definition of citizenship by birth. By expanding the interpretation of what it means to be “in transit,” the Dominican Republic began to chip away at its jus soli (right of soil) regime. Given the long history of migration from Haiti to the Dominican Republic and demographic realities, this shift has had a disproportionate impact on individuals of Haitian descent. The redefinition of the jus soli basis for citizenship reached its peak in the now infamous sentence of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic, 168-13. In September 2013, the Constitutional Tribunal issued Sentence 168-13, which retroactively denationalized and effectively rendered stateless many Dominicans of Haitian descent by establishing that children born in the Dominican Republic to those illegally residing in the country were not entitled to citizenship by birth, as their parents were considered to be “in transit.” The Sentence further called for a national regularization plan.
In an effort to implement Sentence 168-13, the Dominican government established the National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners (PNRE). The PNRE is a plan to regularize the status of undocumented migrants in the Dominican Republic, which most notably impacts Haitian migrants. To be clear the PNRE provides a pathway to regularization for undocumented migrants, it does not provide an adequate avenue for those Dominican nationals rendered stateless by Sentence 168-13. Following international backlash over Sentence 168-13, Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina issued Law 169-14 (Naturalization Law), which provides a pathway to naturalization for those effectively left stateless by the Sentence.
As will be detailed in this Report, although attempts to regularize undocumented migrants and remedy the fallout from Sentence 168-13 for Dominican nationals are commendable, the implementation of the PNRE and the Naturalization Law was problematic in many respects. Both the PNRE and the Naturalization Law suffered from insufficient capacity, inadequate timeframes, and poor publicity, amongst other factors.
This Report will also detail how various actors were involved in or impacted by the regularization and naturalization processes, including intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, civil society, as well as several important bilateral relationships with the Dominican Republic. Moreover, this Report will discuss the role that these actors could play moving forward.
Undoubtedly, states have the sovereign right to determine the criteria for citizenship, but they must do so consistently with international human rights law, including, inter alia, the right to nationality and prohibitions on racial discrimination. This Report will discuss the Dominican Republic’s responsibilities under international human rights law.
Finally, this Report will outline the constraints that may inhibit the work of policy makers and human rights defenders in addressing immigration and citizenship issues. The plight of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic is complicated by a history of anti-Haitianism, an unfavorable domestic political climate, and a nascent human rights culture.
With the deadline to apply under the Naturalization Law expired and the deadline for the PNRE quickly approaching, the fate of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent still remains uncertain. Along with the PNRE deadline comes the expiration of the moratorium on deportations. As such, there is concern about Haitian migrants being deported and Dominicans of Haitian descent being expulsed without adequate due process. Consequently, the situation on the ground merits close monitoring and human rights driven solutions.