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‘Back’ to Haiti?

Last week, the Dominican Republic summarily stripped more than 100,000 Dominicans born in the DR to parents who are of Haitian descent of their citizenship and is going forward with plans to deport them to Haiti.

We can’t really say these individuals are going “back to” anywhere as they were born in the Dominican Republic, but that seems to be exactly how DR’s government is treating them.

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To get a better understanding of what’s happening, JET spoke with Arian Terrill, a humanitarian aid worker based in the poorer barrios of Santo Domingo and Puerta Plata, the two primary hubs of Haitian immigrants in the DR about the government’s plans.

The human rights worker has been living in the Dominican Republic for the last 18 months.

“Several hundred thousand people here in the DR who are of Haitian descent, who were born here, and have built their lives and families here, and have all of their personal property and possessions here, will be rendered summarily stateless,” said Terrill.

So…how and WHY is this happening?

It turns out that the deadline for Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent to register as citizens will expire Tuesday, June 16. On June 17, all of those who have not registered will be legally subject to summary detention and deportation.

“In September 2013, the constitutional court of the Dominican Republic revoked Dominican citizenship for Haitians and Dominican-Haitians, retroactive to 1929″ Terrill said. “After international outcry and pressure from the US, UN, OAS, IACHR, and CARICOM, the government passed Law 169-14, which was nominally supposed to be a relief measure allowing Dominican-Haitians until June 16 to register for citizenship. Historically, Dominican politicians have deliberately created or exacerbated anti-Haitian sentiment among Dominicans as a means of ‘othering’ to further their political agendas.”

This means that several hundred thousand people in the DR who are of Haitian descent, who were born in the country, who have built their lives and families there, will be rendered summarily stateless.

Terrill said that initially, Law 169-14 was viewed as a positive step on the part of the government. But now, expectations have “rapidly deflated over the past few months.”

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Dominican-Haitians must have a birth certificate in order to register, but since many Dominican-Haitians were born in rural areas without access to clinical paperwork, that’s pretty much impossible. If they can’t afford the $42 fee, which totals up to roughly four days in wages, then they cannot register. If they’re unable to spell their full names in Spanish, then they cannot register.

“Even among those who have gone through the entire process and have registered, I am unaware of a single case in which the registrant has received confirmation that his or her case has been processed and adjudicated,” said Terrill. “While these folks remain in legal limbo, they are still technically eligible for summary detention and deportation. Do you see what I am saying? Even after going to great personal and financial lengths to get their paperwork in order and register as required, tens of thousands of people have not received confirmation and thus remain eligible for detention and deportation.”

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So what can be done?

Terrill is suggesting that all interested parties reach out to him, the Human Rights shop at the U.S. embassy and to the U.N. Refugee Office in Santo Domingo.

“We would also benefit from more press attention, and connections to major international human rights organizations, which have been oddly quiet on this issue in recent weeks,” Terrill said. “It is difficult for me to remember the last time that up to half a million people were rendered summarily stateless by overt government decree simply because their great-grandparents or parents migrated from a different country.”