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date: 23 April 2018

Summary and Keywords

There has been a century of Haitian immigration to the neighboring Dominican Republic, initially as seasonal cane cutters. Noteworthy are the manu militari policies and ethnically discriminatory legislation adopted under the Trujillo dictatorship (1930–1961), including the legacy of these under the subsequent mainmise administration of his protégé President Balaguer. The diversification of this migrant labor in recent decades has been accompanied by the struggle between competing ideological factions to revise the obsolete migration legislation at the turn of the 21st century. The ensuing normative bias is detrimental to Haitians and constitutes unwarranted incursions into nationality matters.

Understanding discrimination and anti-Haitianism in the Dominican Republic and how this has been confronted underpin an analysis of current issues. Given the reluctance of political leaders and private-sector interests to address xenophobia and racism affecting Haitians and persons with Haitian ancestry, the role of civil society practitioners has come to the fore. This contestation on the part of civil society is exemplified in the strategic litigation outside and within the country, especially as regards the threat of nationality stripping of Haitian ancestry Dominicans born in the Dominican Republic.

The buildup to the crisis of 2013 stemming from the decision of the Dominican Constitutional Court (CC), La Sentencia (as it became known), which effectively rendered stateless 133,000 Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, is critical to understanding how and why this has happened. It also helps explain the nature of the palliative efforts set in motion by the Dominican authorities to mitigate the effects of the Sentence. Civil society’s response has been characterized by different but interrelated processes mandated by the Sentence and then enacted in twin but different legislation. Both the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners with an Irregular Migration Status (PNRE) and Naturalization Law 169-14 for those persons denationalized in September 2013 are examined.

Finally, taking stock entails examining the prospect of lasting change toward proper integration of Haitian migrants and the recognition of the right for their descendants born in the Dominican Republic to have and to hold Dominican nationality. Heightened judicial engagement is doubtless necessary, but the cultural turn perhaps holds the key to more sustainable gains in compliance with the rights of Haitian migrants and their family members. At most immediate risk is the realization of the acquired citizenship rights of descendants born in country to Haitian immigrants.

Keywords: Haitians in Dominican Republic, Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, statelessness, Dominico-Haitian relations, human rights, civil society contestation, ultra-nationalists, transnational advocacy, inclusive citizenship, border politics

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