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Statelessness in the Dominican Republic

Project Overview

Investigates and raises international awareness about the ongoing issue of statelessness faced by Haitian-Dominicans living in the Dominican Republic.

Identifying the Problem

For a long time, Haitian-Dominicans have enjoyed the benefits of a constitutional right to Dominican citizenship by virtue of being born in the country. However, beginning in 2004, the Dominican Republic began to change some of its citizenship laws in a way that disenfranchises children born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian migrant workers.  In 2010, the revised constitution explicitly prohibited citizenship for those born in the country to foreigners who are “in transit.”  This language is nowadays used to refer to Haitians who have lived in the Dominican Republic for many generations through guest worker programs. 

An example of commonplace discrimination occurs in maternity wards of hospitals. Nurses are allowed to determine who may be an "in transit" mother and at the time of birth, will hand the mother either a citizen’s slip or a foreigner’s slip for the baby, since babies born in the Dominican Republic are to be registered with the civil registry within a few days of being born. Yet instead of asking the birth mother about her citizenship, the nurses often make this determination on the basis of the mother’s last name and skin tone.  Therefore, many young Haitian-Dominicans who currently live, study and work in the Dominican Republic are being deprived of basic citizenship rights due to their ethnic backgrounds. 

Creating A Solution

With his previous academic and professional work experience in immigration law and advocacy, Alex was interested in this particular issue. During his spring break in law school, he joined Universal Justice, run by law students who bring legal aid and human rights advocacy to developing countries over the students’ winter and spring breaks. Alex chose to travel to the Dominican Republic with a small group that wanted to develop a project relating to the country’s immigration issues affecting Haitian-Dominicans. Alex and his group wanted to conduct and film interviews of Haitian-Domincan youth who were affected by the current Dominican laws that have left them stateless. By providing videos of the ongoing political situation in the Dominican Republic, Alex and his group hoped that more people would be encouraged to become involved and encourage the Dominican government to address the issue of statelessness that Haitian-Dominicans are facing.  

The interviews took place in Santo Domingo, during a three-day protest organized by Centro Bonó, a local Dominican non-profit organization. Alex and his group also communicated with OBMICA, which provided the group with information for the legal aspects of their research and advocacy videos. The project was publicized in the New York Law Journal, and the group also published a final report about their work in the Dominican Republic.  The videos are in the final phase of editing, and will be made available online soon!

Lessons Learned

Because Alex and his group were based in New York City, it was crucial that they adequately plan for their project before leaving for the Dominican Republic. Before travelling to Santo Domingo, the group made sure to establish contact with Dominican NGOs.  Alex stresses the importance of having strong organizational partners in the country where you intend to work.  And especially for anyone planning to conduct interviews, he encourages you to develop interview questions ahead of time.

Funding

Alex’s trip to the Dominican Republic was funded by Universal Justice. However, he and his group did have to supply all the electronics used to film the interviews. 

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2012

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