Haitian-American Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte is urging the New York State Assembly to vote on a resolution she introduced on Monday that calls for the United States Congress to condemn the Dominican Republic’s action against Dominicans of Haitian descent. In 2013 the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court left hundreds of thousands Haitian Dominicans stateless, after stripping them of their citizenship.
“I take this action to draw the world’s eyes to the Dominican Republic’s abuse of Dominicans of Haitian descent, and efforts to strip them of their rights and citizenship,” said Bichotte, who announced yesterday she has been on a hunger strike for days.
“As a Haitian American, I would be justifiably outraged if the United States suddenly declared me a noncitizen for no other reason than my heritage. I’m no less outraged to see this done to Dominicans of Haitian descent. This is a brazen violation of their human rights.”
For decades the Dominican Republic formally recognized the children of Haitian migrants born in the country as citizens. They were issued birth certificates, identity cards and passports to them, regardless of the migration status of their parents.
The September 2013 ruling retroactively denies Dominican citizenship to anyone born after 1929, who is not born to at least one parent of Dominican descent. The ruling was passed under a constitutional clause classifying all others as “in transit” or in the country illegally. Human rights advocates have challenged the ruling, calling it “xenophobic” and “racist.” It is estimated there are 245,000 Dominican-born children of Haitian immigrants living in the country.
“Amnesty International USA welcomes the resolution and calls on all members of the Assembly to stand in solidarity with Dominicans of Haitian descent who have been stripped of their nationality,” Marselha Goncalves Margerin, AIUSA advocacy director of the Americas, said.
“Being recognized by a state is a fundamental right that should be afforded every human being,” the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York (HALANY) said. “People without state recognition are vulnerable, invisible and have no protection under international law. They lack basic human rights and physical security.”
Such an action by the government will only exacerbate this humanitarian crisis, HALANY. We urge the Dominican government to return citizenship to all from whom it was taken and to cease all deportations. To the extent any deportations are to take place, we ask that they are done in accordance with international law and due process.
“As state legislators, many of whom represent Haitian constituents, we have a definite interest in what happens to Dominicans of Haitian descent in their own country, and we feel compelled to express our concerns as a state legislature,” said Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “This resolution represents our concerns and we hope this resolution is a step forward in resolving this important issue.”
In June 2015, the Dominican government will begin mass deportations and expelling Dominicans of Haitian descent from the country.
“I stand with the oppressed the world over, whether they be Catholics in Northern Ireland, East Timores in Asia or the Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic who have unjustly lost their citizenship,” Senator James Sanders, Jr. said. “I call upon the Dominican government to respect international law and defend the rights of all their citizens regardless of where their grandparents came from, and to prosecute any vigilantes who abuse citizens.”
For nearly the last 15 years, Dominican officials have been changing their nationality laws to allow them to apply them retroactively “in a way that is particularly discriminatory toward Dominicans of Haitian descent,” Amnesty International said. The country’s nationality laws have come under “intense criticism” from the international community. Last October, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that the law violated the American Convention on Human Rights — a ruling that Dominican authorities rejected and “refused to comply with.”
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