Thursday, November 21, 2013
Q&A ON THE RULING TC/0168-13
The Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic issued a ruling on September 23 that reaffirms who is Dominican, in accordance with a legal tradition that dates back to 1929: the children of Dominican parents or a legal resident. This concept of nationality is much broader and inclusive than the norm in most European countries, for example. The TC’s decision, result of an appeal brought by a foreigner whose parents were illegally in the country, has triggered a wave of speculation and reckless misinformation that has claimed that 200,000 to 500,000 people will be stripped of Dominican nationality. Who is Dominican, according to the Constitution? People born in the country, with the exception of children of members of foreign diplomatic and consular missions and foreigners who are in transit or that reside illegally in Dominican territory. The direct descendants of Dominicans living abroad are also Dominicans. The Ruling ratified the criteria for nationality, as did the Supreme Court in 2005, acting as a constitutional court. Was there a constitutional amendment to exclude undocumented aliens retroactively and harm Haitians in the DR? The Constitution does not differentiate between nationalities when referring to foreigners. Since the last century a series of laws established that anyone illegally in Dominican territory is considered in transit and therefore their children not entitled to citizenship. Does it matter whether they are undocumented if they were born in Dominican territory? The Dominican Constitution only grants Dominican citizenship to the children of foreigners residing legally in the country. Over 80% of all countries in the world do not grant citizenship simply by birth in its territory. Haiti, for example, is one of them. In the Dominican Republic, a child is automatically Dominican if just one parent has legal residency. Is it not true that more than 200,000 people will be affected? No. The audit conducted of the national civil registry after the Ruling determined that there are 53,847 foreigners registered, of which 24,392 do not meet the requirements or do not possess valid documentation to obtain Dominican nationality. Out of this total, only 13,672 are descendants of Haitian nationals. Will those Haitians enter a legal limbo? No, nor will they will be deported. Cases will be looked at one by one, with a humanitarian approach, within six months as ordered by the Ruling. If they have roots in the country, were born in Dominican territory and have not committed any crime, a way to citizenship will be found for them. So the children of foreigners who were Dominican before the Ruling will lose their nationality? Not at all! The Constitution guarantees that they will remain Dominicans, such as at the other 29,455 children of foreigners whose registrations were made with valid documents. So why is “denationalization” talked about in this case? From a misinterpretation of the Tribunal’s Ruling and the incorrect belief that children of citizens with no immigrant status born in the Dominican Republic are Dominicans. Are those born to undocumented foreign parents in the DR stateless, then? No. Statelessness only exists where a person has no legally recognized claim to a nationality. In the case of the descendants of Haitians, the Haitian Constitution recognizes that no matter where they were born, they are entitled to their parent’s nationality. But are the undocumented vulnerable to discrimination and denied their basic rights in the DR? In the Dominican Republic, historically a country of mixed race population, discrimination is prohibited regardless of the reason. Everyone has free access to health, pre-university education and access to the courts, particularly the labor courts, to claim their rights, without even the need to present identification. And what are the benefits of the Ruling? The Ruling ordered the implementation of a national plan for the regularization of undocumented aliens. The undocumented foreigners will be provided with an immigration status that will allow them to stay in the Dominican territory, perform all their everyday activities and, if they so desire, then obtain Dominican citizenship. And what about those who considered themselves Dominicans but are not according to the ruling? As explained, they were never eligible for Dominican citizenship. However, as the Ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal does not contemplate their deportation they will continue to live in the country. President Danilo Medina has said that a humanitarian solution will be found that fully respects the human rights of everyone who has lived a long time or was born in the country, even though they are not Dominicans.