How Dominicans of Haitian Descent Are Paying for Their Ancestry

For those whose citizenship has been revoked, the next deportation deadline looms in August.
Mileida Benancio, 19, was born in the Dominican Republic but was deported for not having residency. A 2013 court decision ruled that 'children born in the country to foreign parents in transit do not have Dominican nationality.' (Photo: Hector Retamal/Getty Images)
Jul 5, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Rebecca McCray is a staff writer covering social justice. She is based in New York.

Soy dominicano y tengo derecho!”

This is the call that has echoed throughout Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, where tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent have protested a move to drop their citizenship: “I am Dominican, and I have rights.”

Following a 2013 high court decision, the Dominican government revoked the citizenship of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent born in the country after 1929. The decision impacted people who were born in the country and built their entire lives there simply because of their ancestry. The complicated history of violence, racism, and labor demand between Haiti and the Dominican Republic—two countries that share one island—was the backdrop for the court’s controversial ruling, which left thousands stateless and in fear of deportation to the other side of the island.

So, Why Should You Care? While Haitians work to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake that is estimated to have killed 220,000, Dominicans of Haitian descent have been cut off from public resources ranging from education to health care, according to a report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch. While the Dominican government attempted to put a naturalization process into place to assist the many people who wanted to regain full citizenship, experts say the registration system is inadequate and has left many in limbo.

Now, those who have fallen through the cracks are at risk of being deported to Haiti in August, when the next deportation deadline arrives.

The problem has hit children born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents especially hard. Haitian nationals who have emigrated must get identification from the dysfunctional bureaucracy of the Haitian consulate before they can help their children register for Dominican citizenship.

The report tells the story of siblings Ana Iris, 16, and Luis Mario, 11. Their mother, Maria, was unable to get proper documentation to demonstrate her citizenship during the haphazard 180-day registration period. Because Maria wasn’t able to obtain an ID card within that time, Ana Iris and Luis Mario were permanently banned from applying for their own Dominican documentation, according to Human Rights Watch, and their school has told them they aren’t allowed to return.