U.S. Assistance Supporting Discriminatory Policies in the Dominican Republic
RFK Center Delegation to the Dominican Republic
(2009-10-01) In late June 2009, an RFK Center delegation led by Ms. Kerry Kennedy traveled to the Dominican Republic and joined 2006 RFK Human Rights Laureate Ms. Sonia Pierre. The RFK Center delegation was primarily a fact-finding mission to investigate a series of allegedly discriminatory government actions, including a proposed Constitutional amendment. There is grave concern that these policies exclude persons of Haitian descent from civil participation and public services, effectively condemning them to live as stateless persons in constant legal limbo. Ms. Kennedy and RFK Staff met with both affected communities and Dominican government officials, including the Vice President, the Central Electoral Board (Jutna Central Electoral - JCE) President, the Minister of Interior and Police, the Director of Migration and the Secretary of Labor.
The delegation found widespread and state-sponsored discrimination against Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian immigrants across the country, regardless of age, gender or legal status. RFK Center has received inconsistent information from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic and USAID about the extent of U.S. government support for these discriminatory policies and programs. Greater transparency and a clear anti-discriminatory policy are needed to guide U.S. actions in the Dominican Republic.
2004 Migration Law
The 2004 Migration Law made two significant changes in Dominican law that have been used to exclude the children of Haitian-Dominicans. First, it broadened the constitutional definition of the “in transit” exception to birthright nationality. Under the 2004 definition, children born on Dominican soil of non-citizen parents are deemed “in transit” and do not gain citizenship, regardless of the length of time their parents have lived in the country. Second, the 2004 law created a Book of Foreigners to register the children of undocumented residing mothers. Using the new definition of “in transit” and separate registration processes for the children of undocumented mothers, the 2004 Migration Law has been applied retroactively to deny identity documents to Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, in effect, denationalizing this minority group and leaving them stateless.
Book of Foreigners/Pink Declaration
The U.S. government publicly supports the Book of Foreigners which provides a pink declaration for foreign children, instead of a standard white birth certificate. The Book was designed to provide documentation to foreigners “in transit” who are nationals of other countries; however, in practice, pink declarations are being issued to children whose parents lack proper documentation or whose documents are deemed “irregular.” As a result, children of Haitian descent are disproportionately affected. Children with these declarations are not eligible to register for Dominican citizenship and are therefore denied many of the essential rights and protections that citizenship entails, including the right to health care, the right to vote, the right to travel and the right of return.
Although the Book of Foreigners is beneficial for U.S. diplomats who have children in the Dominican Republic, the program is being implemented in a highly prejudicial manner. U.S. officials have privately denounced the discriminatory implementation of the Book, but have not publicly stated any problems with the program
Denial of Identity Documents
From 2004 through 2007, the Central Electoral Board (Junta Central Electoral - JCE), responsible for both civil registration and elections, instituted and implemented a series of administrative reforms that have disenfranchised a large population of Dominicans of Haitian descent. It is important to highlight that in the Dominican Republic identity documents are necessary to access fundamental civil rights and basic public services, including medical care, employment and education.
Some of these administrative reforms were based on an administrative order entitled Circular 017/Resolution 12. Circular 017, a JCE internal memo, and its accompanying Resolution 12 have been used to deny (copy of) documents to Dominicans of Haitian descent based on the status of their parents, denationalizing them, barring them from continuing their education and accessing other basic services, effectively leaving many of them stateless.
The government of the Dominican Republic has framed the issuance and implementation of Circular 017 (and the subsequent Instructivo, which outlines the criteria for renewal and denial of identity documents) within the context of its broader fight against document fraud. In practice, the implementation of Circular 017 has disproportionately impacted Dominicans of Haitian decent whose Dominican nationality was previously recognized by the Dominican government.
US Support of Dominican Government Anti-Fraud Activities
There are indications that the U.S. Government is providing technical assistance to the government of the Dominican Republic, yet it is unclear what level of support the U.S. government is providing for the implementation of Circular 17/Instrucivo. The president of the JCE has stated publicly that there is daily collaboration between the JCE and the U.S. Embassy, and U.S. government officials have made supportive public statements about the agency implementing these policies. U.S. government support, whether in the form of technical assistance or public commendation, has been construed as support for Dominican civil registry policies.
The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) prohibits discrimination and foresees that if the Department of State has determined that the recipient government has engaged in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, security and development assistance funds may not be provided to such country (FAA §116 and 502B). While the U.S. acknowledged severe racial discrimination against Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent (2007 Department of State Human Rights Report), there does not appear to be any rigorous evaluation of the potential discriminatory implementation of such policies.