Dominican Republic: thousands to become stateless

Tens of thousands of Dominicans born to undocumented immigrants were set to become stateless when a deadline to regularize their status passed on Feb. 1, according to the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI). "Even if these people are able to stay in the Dominican Republic after the deadline expires, their futures are woefully uncertain," AI Americas director Erika Guevara Rosas said in a statement. The people at risk are mostly Haitian descendants who were affected by Decision 168-13, a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal (TC) in September 2013 declaring that no one born to undocumented immigrant parents since 1929 was a citizen. Their situation was supposed to be remedied by Law 169/14, which was passed in May 2014 to set up a process for people to regularize their status. AI says the law's implementation has been inadequate.

The Interior Ministry reported that as of Jan. 9, only 5,345 people had applied for regularization—just 5% of the 110,000 people AI believes should be eligible. The Dominican government has put the number of eligible people at 20,000 and claims it has done its best to help people file their claims. Immigration director José Ricardo Taveras told the El Caribe news site that the government had set up more than 20 offices to handle regularization requests and had launched a big publicity campaign. But the media reported long lines at the offices, and AI charged that even people "who should have been able to have their Dominican nationality returned in a quick procedure have been waiting for months." "The simple fact is that when the vast majority of these people were born, the Dominican law at the time recognized them as citizens," Guevara Rosas said. "Stripping them of this right and then creating impossible administrative hurdles to stay in the country is a violation of their human rights." (AI statement, Feb. 1; Terra Argentina, Feb. 1, from Reuters)

On Jan. 28 AI reported that the Dominican authorities had deported 51 to Haiti the day before. The group included 30 children, ages seven to 13, born in the Dominican Republic, along with seven mothers and 14 other adults. They were traveling in two minivans to San Juan de la Maguana, in the western province of San Juan, where they expected to register for the regularization. However, according to AI the vehicles were stopped at a military checkpoint a few kilometers from the city. Officers told the passengers that they had to go to an immigration office in Elias Piña, near the border with Haiti, to get passes before entering San Juan. After arriving at Elias Piña, the entire group was deported to Haiti. The Dominican Interior Ministry claimed it had authorized their reentry, but as of Jan. 28 they were still in Haiti. AI noted the special vulnerability of the Dominican-born children, who were not Haitian citizens and were now in effect stateless. (, Jan. 28, from EFE Verde)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, February 1.