Registering for elementary school, applying for a job, casting a vote, opening a bank account, buying a house, getting married, registering the birth of a child—in the Dominican Republic, these and dozens of other activities require proof of citizenship. For Dominicans of Haitian descent, however, obtaining such proof has become a legal and bureaucratic impossibility.
After a landmark international court decision in 2005 calling on the Dominican government to end its discrimination against this population, the government did the opposite: it hardened its policies and began retroactively withdrawing citizenship from Dominicans of Haitian descent who were previously recognized as citizens.
Claiming that it is only trying to “clean up” its civil registry rolls, the government now systematically refuses to issue identity documents to Dominicans of Haitian descent. Officials may deny these documents because someone has a French last name or “looks” Haitian.
Those affected come from all walks of life—schoolteachers, lawyers, community organizers, doctors, entertainers, caregivers, students, and military officers. These people are in danger of becoming stateless in the country of their birth and residency.
The Open Society Justice Initiative is engaged in ongoing work with Dominican advocates to challenge this systematic discrimination.