feature: “haitian’s lynching renews protests against dominican citizenship law”

February 17, 2015

As the Huffington Post recently reported, “thousands of Dominicans [of Haitian descent] woke up without citizenship in any country” a couple of weeks ago. Last week, a Haitian man was lynched at a public plaza in the Dominican Republic. An act that has renewed protests on the Caribbean island (protests had taken place previously after the decision of the Dominican Republic’s constitutional court to strip Haitians of their citizenship). Dominican authorities are claiming that the lynching was the result of a personal dispute, but many activists are adamant that this is yet another anti-Haitian act and reflection of the racist attitudes taking over the Dominican Republic. NPR have more on the story here; check out some excerpts, below. 

By Alexander Aplerku, AFROPUNK Contributor

The lynching came during an already tense time for Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. Feb. 1 marked the deadline for tens of thousands of them to report to the country’s civil registry to prove that their ancestors came to the nation legally. Those who didn’t — or couldn’t — comply with the deadline could be deported. For many of those affected, that could mean being deported to Haiti, a place where they’ve never lived, where they may not have any remaining family, and may not know the language.

Under the current rules, anyone without proof of their birth or the birth of their parents in the Dominican Republic is required to register as a foreigner — even if they were born in the country. Amnesty International estimates that less than 5 percent of those people eligible to register actually did, leaving tens of thousands now stateless.

The Dominican Republic has a long, contentious history with Haiti, which together make up the island of Hispaniola. Many critics accuse the Dominican government of purposely reinterpreting the citizenship policy to discriminate against Dominicans with Haitian ancestry.

“When you have individual actors in the form of government coming together to create major bureaucratic hoops, it’s clear that there is some discriminating intention,” says Angela Fernandez, executive director of the North Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “The underclass has already been created by Dominican society and the government.”

Deportation is not the only problem undocumented residents face. “Being stateless in your own homeland, you have no access to documentation. You have no identity,” Liguori says. “It prohibits finding a job, getting married. You need a birth certificate or identity card and the Dominican Republic stripping these people of legal recognition prevents them from obtaining these documents.”