Currently, Dominicans of Haitian descent find themselves without a country thanks to a series of policy changes and a Dominican Republic Supreme Court ruling which has rendered the rights of Dominican citizens of Haitian ancestry void. As trade borders open and demand for cheap labor in the D.R. grows, questions of citizenship and how states define their borders continue to arise while simultaneously rendering millions of global citizens stateless and some the object of racially driven laws.
On its face, the Dominican Republic’s new citizenship law, requiring that children born on Dominican soil have at least one Dominican parent to be eligible for citizenship, is not at all suspect. The United Nations has long recognized the right of nations to determine how they manage their borders and define citizenship. However, the Dominican government’s decision to make this law retroactive to those born after 1929, results in what can only be described as an arbitrary and capricious act to potentially strip over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian ancestry with a rightful claim to their home country.
Haitian foreigners stand to be singled out. D.R. has a long history of recruiting their neighbors from the West to do low wage work like cutting sugar cane, construction and domestic work. The country’s demand for low wage labor over several decades makes Haitians one of the largest groups of foreigners in the Dominican Republic and a clear target of this new law.
Like all countries, when the economy is bad, governments turn to racist propaganda against immigrant workers and their families to gain public support for the rapid deportation, incarceration and overall violations of human rights against non-citizens. This comes as no surprise to American Latinos since the United States has tripled its deportation numbers in the last seven years in the midst of an ongoing and growing economic crisis.
What makes the Dominican Republic’s constitutional change uniquely horrifying is its retroactivity. Whether you agree with the country’s decision to change its laws or not, the government’s decision to unseat four generations of Dominican citizens simply because their parents “might” have been transient workers is untenable considering they were recruited by Dominican employers to begin with. Last I checked no employer was being sanctioned for recruiting low wage workers from Haiti under what I am sure are deplorable working conditions.