Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Passport, Job, Marriage Still out of Reach for Many Dominicans, despite New Law

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Passport, Job, Marriage Still out of Reach for Many Dominicans, despite New Law

Article excerpt

After seven years of fighting the government to recognize her as a Dominican citizen, Juliana Deguis Pierre won this month: She received a national identification card.

But the battle is hardly over for the hundreds of thousands of Dominican-born children of foreign descent who were stripped of citizenship here after a 2013 high court ruling.

Ms. Deguis, whose Haitian parents were working in sugar cane fields here when she was born, became the poster child for the citizenship movement after she sued the government for refusing her access to documents like her birth certificate. She lost the case, which effectively meant that generations of children of immigrants dating back to 1929 lost their citizenship.

The international community expressed outrage at the ruling, pushing President Danilo Medina to pass a law providing a path to citizenship for Deguis and about 25,000 others like her.

The law was praised by the likes of Vice President Joe Biden and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, easing international pressure on the Dominican government. However, human rights organizations say the underlying problems of access to national identity documents in the Dominican Republic remain. As the government begins to implement the naturalization law this month, tens of thousands or more people remain vulnerable to being left functionally stateless. They won't be recognized by the Dominican government and are unlikely to return to the countries from which their parents hailed - mainly Haiti - to request citizenship there.

"My reading of the situation is that the law resolves ... the cases for about 10 percent of Dominicans of Haitian descent," says Santiago Canton, executive director of the RFK Partners for Human Rights in Washington, DC. But the UN estimates as many as 250,000 people were affected by the ruling, which means hundreds of thousands are still at risk of failing to be recognized as citizens here.

'Problem continues'One of the reasons the new law doesn't help everyone is that many families never registered the birth of their children in the first place. …

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