STRATEGIC LITIGATION

Haitians in Dominican Face Statelessness

Dominican RepublicImmigration

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Holding the Dominican Republic Accountable for Putting Generations of Dominicans of Haitian Descent At Risk of Statelessness

In 2008, Juliana Deguis Pierre visited the Central Electoral Board office in the Dominican Republic capital of Santo Domingo to obtain her national ID card (cédula), the document that would allow her to vote, work legally, and secure a birth certificate for the son she was pregnant with. Instead, authorities confiscated her own birth certificate on the grounds that her parents were Haitian immigrants, sparking a legal firestorm that would ultimately affect hundreds of thousands in the Dominican Republic.

Juliana was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian immigrant parents who had been recruited across the border by a sugar company to work as laborers. At the time she was born, the Dominican constitution guaranteed Dominican citizenship at birth to anyone born in the country, regardless of their parents’ legal status. Juliana’s birth was registered with her father’s work permit, she was issued her birth certificate, and she never doubted that she was a Dominican citizen.

Due to rampant xenophobia and discrimination toward people of Haitian descent, the Dominican government had enacted a series of laws and policies that steadily restricted access to Dominican citizenship for Dominicans born to Haitians with irregular status in the Dominican Republic, resulting in a 2010 constitutional amendment that denied “birthright citizenship” to children born in the Dominican Republic to parents who were migrants in an irregular status, labeled as “foreigners in transit” regardless of the amount of time the parents had spent in the country. When her birth certificate was confiscated under these new laws, Juliana suddenly needed to defend her Dominican citizenship in court.

After losing her initial case against the Dominican government, Juliana eventually appealed to the Constitutional Tribunal, the country’s highest court. There, in Judgment 168-13, the Court not only approved the discriminatory policies but also made the new constitutional amendment retroactive to 1929, stripping everyone born in the DR to foreign parents with irregular status since then of their Dominican citizenship. Juliana’s disenfranchisement suddenly became that of more than 210,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent who were no longer citizens.

Juliana and many of the other victims had never left the country—let alone been to Haiti. Judgment 168-13 rendered them people without a country who could no longer vote, legally work, get a driver’s license, open a bank account, marry, or register for domestic university. The Dominican government faced international censure for the decision, and in May 2014, eight months after Judgment 168-13 was issued, the legislature passed a law arbitrarily splitting the victims of the judgment into two groups. It restored Dominican citizenship to those who, like Juliana, had already been registered as Dominican citizens at the time of the 2013 judgment. And it promised a path to naturalization after two years via a complicated naturalization process for those victims who, despite also having the right to birthright citizenship, were not officially registered as Dominican citizens at the time of the judgment and would be required to register as foreigners to qualify for naturalization. If they refuse to self-report as foreigners, deportation is a possibility.

How is RFK Human Rights Supporting Juliana’s Case?

The organization, along with partners MOSCTHA, Equipo Legal de la Jacques Viau, and Fundación Derechos Vigentes, is litigating the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to declare that the Dominican government has violated the rights of Juliana and two other women and their children, under international law, and to order the state to guarantee and restore national identity documents to the victims.

What is the Status of the Case?

Awaiting a decision by the IACHR on admissibility and merits of the case.

Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

Juliana Deguis Pierre and children, Yanelis Segó Basil, and Jenny Emanier Previlma and children v. Dominican Republic


Month/Year of filing

August 2013


Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)


Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (OR found to have been violated)

Articles 1.1 (obligation to respect rights), 2 (domestic legal effects), 3 (right to juridical personality), 5 (right to humane treatment), 8 (right to a fair trial), 17 (rights of the family), 18 (right to a name), 19 (rights of the child), 20 (right to nationality), 22 (freedom of movement and residence), 23 (right to participate in government), 24 (right to equal protection), 25 (right to judicial protection), and 26 (progressive development) of the American Convention on Human Rights


Procedural stage

Merits


Counsel

RFKHR, Movimiento Sociocultural Para Los Trabajadores Haitianos (MOSCTHA), Fundación Derechos Vigente and Red de Encuentro Dominicano-Haitiano Jacques Viau (REDH-JV)