Under the Dominican Constitution, all persons born on the country's territory are Dominican citizens. Nonetheless, ethnic Haitians born in the Dominican Republic are systematically denied citizenship. The denial often begins in the hospital itself, on an infant's very first day, when medical staff refuse to provide undocumented Haitian parents with proof of their child's birth. Later in a child's life, the obstacles to obtaining proof of citizenship become progressively more onerous.
The result of such discriminatory policies is that many Dominico-Haitians who were born in the Dominican Republic and have lived there all their lives remain perpetually at risk of summary deportation. Not only is their own legal status precarious, but they transmit this status to their children. Generations of ethnic Haitians living in the Dominican Republic are denied recognition as Dominican citizens, leaving them in what the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has termed a situation of "permanent illegality."106
- Manuel E. Polanco, head of the Dominican Army.108
Article 11 of the Dominican Constitution recognizes "all persons born in the territory of the Dominican Republic" as Dominican citizens. Yet, relying on a strained and opportunistic interpretation of an exception to this rule, Dominican officials have claimed that the Dominican-born children of Haitian migrant workers have no right to Dominican citizenship.
Obstacles to Registering Births
Discouraged by what appears to be an impossible process, some ethnic Haitians resort to buying false identification papers, or to obtaining identification papers under false pretences (they may, for example, pay a Dominican woman to register their children for them).125 Unquestionably, many of the people who use such illegal methods have no valid claim to Dominican citizenship for themselves or their childen, but others do, in fact, have legitimate claims; they are just unable to successfully assert their claims using legitimate means.
_ Both Aniseto Bria and his wife Beatriz José were born in the Dominican Republic. They have spent their whole lives in the bateyes outside of Santo Domingo, and they speak fluent, unaccented Spanish, but neither has any identity documents. Their five children -- Francisco (age ten), Tilson (age 8), Eduardo (age seven), Fausto (age four), and Diego (age nine months) - were all born in the hospital near Batey Mata Mamón. All of them were given maternity papers at the hospital, but they have all been denied birth certificates. "They also say that because the mother has no papers, we can't get papers for the children," said Bria.
_ Bernarda Jojo was born in Haiti, but came to the Dominican Republic "when [she] was so little that [she] can't remember." In 1996, she gave birth to her first daughter, Rosanna, in a state sugar council (CEA) hospital in San Luis, near Santo Domingo. Just after Rosanna was born, the hospital staff told Jojo that she could not register Rosanna for a birth certificate unless she had Dominican identity documents herself. Since Bernarda did not have Dominican identification, she was barred from registering Rosanna for a birth certificate. Rosanna, who is now five years old, was born in the Dominican Republic, speaks Spanish, and has never been to Haiti. Nonetheless, she does not have a birth certificate to prove her Dominican nationality.126
_ Victoria Baluisa is a second generation Dominican of Haitian descent. When she was born, Dominican officials refused to give her parents a Dominican birth certificate for her. Her three children, Ronnie (age three), José Enrique (age two), and Vladimir (age six months), all of whom were all born in the Hospital Los Minas in Santo Domingo, have received similar treatment. After each birth, medical staff at the hospital told Victoria that she could register her baby for a birth certificate if she could present her own Dominican cédula. Without any Dominican identification, Baluisa was unable to obtain birth certificates for her infants. Baluisa's children, third generation Dominicans of Haitian descent, remain undocumented.127
_ Jacquelin Baluisa, Victoria's sister, was also born in the Dominican Republic, but she too lacks documentation. In 1996, when she gave birth to her daughter Victoria at the Hospital Los Minas in Santo Domingo, and again in 2000, when she gave birth to her daughter Catherine, she was denied a birth certificate. On both occasions, hospital staff made it clear to her that she could only register her baby if she had Dominican documentation herself.128
_ When a baby is born at home, rather than in a hospital, the first step in applying for a birth certificate is to ask the local mayor to certify the birth. Pedro San Milis and Andrea Charlie's first daughter, Joranda, was born in their home in Mata los Indios, a batey near Santo Domingo. In 1992, San Milis went to the mayor's office in Monte Plata to ask the mayor to certify Joranda's birth. The mayor told Pedro that he could not certify Joranda's birth because San Milis did not have a Dominican cédula.129
_ Jesús de la Cruz Pena and his wife, Cecilia Martínez, are second generation Dominicans of Haitian descent. They were both born in Batey 7, in the southwest Dominican Republic, and were ultimately able to obtain Dominican cédulas proving their citizenship status.130 Nonetheless, their three children, Nelson (age fourteen), Papilin (age thirteen), and Cimena (age one) are all undocumented. On January 18, 2001, Jesús tried to obtain Dominican birth certificates for his children at the official registry in San Cristobal. De la Cruz told Human Rights Watch that the director of the official registry said that he could not issue the birth certificates because "the Junta Central prohibits registering Haitians." Even though both parents were born in the Dominican Republic and have Dominican cédulas, they were still refused birth certificates for their children when the registry official labeled them "Haitian" because of their dark skin.
_ C.P. was born in the Dominican Republic but is undocumented. Together with G.G., she has two children: Martina, age nine, and Frank, age five. At the hospital where her children were born, C.P. was able to obtain maternity papers. Because C.P. lacks a Dominican cédula, however, her children were denied birth certificates by the civil registry, even though G.G., the children's father, is Dominican and has proof of Dominican identity. Not wanting their children to go through life facing deportation and other problems, the parents paid a Dominican woman to register their children as her own.131
International Legal Standards
By keeping Dominico-Haitians in a condition of "permanent illegality" - lacking identity documents and vulnerable to summary deportation - the Dominican Republic seriously enfringes upon their rights as citizens.
106 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Country Report on the Dominican Republic (1999), para. 363.
107 The two children were denied birth certificates in 1997. They were not recognized as Dominican citizens because both of their fathers are Haitian (their mothers are Dominican). A coalition of NGOs challenged the government's actions in a case brought before the Inter-American Commission. The case is discussed at length in the chapter on "The International Response," below.
108 Human Rights Watch interview, Manuel E. Polanco Salvador, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, June 13, 2001.
109 See Constitution of the Dominican Republic, art. 11(1) (recognizing the citizenship of "[a]ll persons born in Dominican territory, with the exception of the legitimate children of foreign diplomats or those in transit in it"). A number of constitutions, including the constitution of the United States, grant citizenship on the basis of birth on the territory (by the principle known as jus soli), but include an exception for the children of foreign diplomats. See U.S. Constitution, Amendment XIV (granting citizenship to persons born in the United States "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof"). An exception for transiting foreigners is less common, although it exists in the Chilean Constitution. Constitución Política de la República de Chile de 1980, con reformas de 1997, art. 10 (1). The Dominican Republic's exception for foreigners "in transit" was originally added to the country's 1908 Constitution, together with an exception for the children of foreign diplomats, and was retained in most subsequent constitutions. See generally Juan Jorge García, Derecho Constitutional Dominicano (Santo Domingo: Editora Corripio, 2000), pp. 129-56.
110 Reglamento de Migración No. 279, sec. V (Transeuntes); Carmen Amelia Cedeño-Caroit, "El estatuto jurídico de los haitianos y sus descendientes nacidos en República Dominicana," 1991, pp. 68-80.
111 See, for example, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.104 (1999), para. 352.
112 Human Rights Watch interview, Manuel Morel Cerda, president, Central Electoral Board, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, June 13, 2001. In discussion before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1999, the representative of the Dominican Republic asserted a similar view, concluding that children in the Dominican Republic born to Haitian workers were not Dominican citizens. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, "Consideration of Reports, Comments and Information Submitted by States Parties under Article 9 of the Convention," U.N. Doc. CERD/C/SR.1365 (September 1, 1999), para. 17.
113 Interview with Rafaelina Peralta Arias, Legal Advisor, Junta Central Electoral, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, June 13, 2001.
114 Human Rights Watch interview, MUDHA staff, Santo Domingo, June 7, 2001; Human Rights Watch interview, Wilian Chapatiel, MOSCTHA, Santo Domingo, June 5, 2001; Human Rights Watch interview, Padre Regino Martínez, Dajabón, Dominican Republic, June 8, 2001; Human Rights Watch interview, Padre Pedro Ruquoy, Batey 5, Dominican Republic, June 5, 2001. At age sixteen, by showing a birth certificate, a Dominican may obtain a minor's cédula, and at age eighteen he or she may obtain an adult cédula.
115 A maternity paper does not in itself prove Dominican nationality. Instead, it serves as a record of the date and location of the child's birth. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Dominican Republic is required to register every child born in its territory immediately after birth. Convention on the Rights of the Child, art. 7.
116 Human Rights Watch interview, Miriam Jacquenera de Jesús, legal advisor, Jesuit Refugee Service, Santo Domingo, June 4, 2001. Such documents must be notarized, which is prohibitively expensive for many Haitian families, and must include the sworn testimony of seven witnesses and the parents of the applicant.
117 The Legal Advisor to the Central Electoral Council told Human Rights Watch that the children of Haitian nationals who are legally resident in the Dominican Republic are entitled to Dominican birth certificates. Human Rights Watch interview, Rafaelina Peralta Arias, Legal Advisor, Junta Central Electoral, Santo Domingo, June 13, 2001.
118 Human Rights Watch interview, Miriam Jacquenera de Jesus, legal advisor, Jesuit Refugee Service, Santo Domingo, June 4, 2001. Law 659, which sets out the rules covering the registration process, requires that the birth certificate include the number of the registering parent's identification card, although it does not specify that the identification card must be Dominican. Ley No. 659 sobre Actos del Estado Civil, art. 46. The president of the electoral board insisted, however, that the law requires parents to present Dominican documentation. Human Rights Watch interview, Manuel Morel Cerda, president, Central Electoral Board, Santo Domingo, June 13, 2001. In fact, the law's requirement that the birth certificate include a record of the nationality of both the mother and father suggests that it contemplates the registration of children born to non-citizens.
119 Human Rights Watch interview, Miriam Jacquenera de Jesus, Santo Domingo, June 4, 2001.
121 In an interview, the president of the Central Electoral Board, the agency that controls the issuance of Dominican nationality documentation, acknowledged that the late registration process can be extraordinarily burdensome and costly. He pointed out, among other things, that most late applicants must retain a lawyer because of the complexity of the application process. Human Rights Watch interview, Manuel Morel Cerda, president, Central Electoral Board, Santo Domingo, June 13, 2001.
122 Human Rights Watch interview, MUDHA staff, June 7, 2001.
123 Human Rights Watch interview, Padre Pedro Ruquoy, Batey 5, Dominican Republic, June 5, 2001.
124 See also NCHR, Beyond the Bateyes, p. 18 (citing a small-scale study of Santo Domingo-area bateyes that found that 46 percent of Dominico-Haitian residents had no official documentation).
125 The woman may take the child to the civil registry and register it in her name, claiming that she does not know who the child's father is. Sometimes such "godparents" do such services for free, as friends of the family, but more often they are paid for their services.
126 Human Rights Watch interview, Bernarda Jojo, Batey Mata Los Indios, Dominican Republic, June 3, 2001.
127 Human Rights Watch interview, Victoria Baluisa, Batey Mata Los Indios, Dominican Republic, June 3, 2001.
128 Human Rights Watch interview, Jacquelin Baluisa, Batey Mata Los Indios, Dominican Republic, June 3, 2001.
129 Human Rights Watch interview, Pedro San Milis, Batey Mata Los Indios, Dominican Republic, June 3, 2001.
130 Human Rights Watch representatives viewed these documents.
131 Human Rights Watch interview, C.P., Batey Mata Mamón, Dominican Republic, June 2, 2001.
132 American Convention on Human Rights, art. 20(1); see also ICCPR, art. 24(3).
133 See American Convention, art. 20(2); U.N. Human Rights Committee, General Comment 17, para. 8 ("the right of every child to acquire a nationality. . . does not necessarily make it an obligation for States to give their nationality to every child born in the territory."); Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, art. 1(1)(the Dominican Republic has signed but not yet ratified this treaty).
134 Notably, the Inter-American Commission has found that the Dominican Republic is wrongly denying children of Haitian descent the right to citizenship, since "[i]t is not possible to consider persons who have resided for several years in a country in which they have developed innumerable contacts of all types to be in transit." Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.104 (1999), para. 363; see also U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, "Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant," U.N. Doc. E/C.12/1/Add.16 (December 12, 1997), para. 34 (recommending that the Dominican citizenship of Dominican-born children of Haitian residents be recognized "without delay").
135 ICCPR, art. 26; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, art. 5(d)(iii).