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Citizenship rights threatened in the Dominican Republic

posted by November 26th, 2013

Unfortunately, it took a trip to the Dominican Republic for me to fully grasp some of the injustices taking place there.

The Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court recently made a ruling to revoke the citizenship rights from all persons born in the country to parents with irregular immigration status. Even more shocking, the ruling will be retroactively applied to all persons born in the Dominican Republic between 1929 and 2010 – stripping citizenship from thousands of people!

This is not an immigration issue; this is an issue of human rights. All of the affected Dominicans were born in the Dominican Republic, have been considered citizens their entire lives and have never called another country home.

I learned that this has actually been taking place since 2007, with the government preventing many Dominican descendants of undocumented immigrants from obtaining their birth certificates or identification cards.

I met several individuals who have already been affected by this policy, such as Reinaldo, who tried to obtain his birth certificate at the end of the eighth grade. In the Dominican Republic, you must show proof of citizenship to continue past the eighth grade and get a new birth certificate for every use.

Although Reinaldo was registered in the system, he was denied because of this new policy. Not wanting to lose out on education or end up on the streets, Reinaldo attended the eighth grade four times before he was finally permitted to advance. Now as an adult, he is being denied again, this time because of his identification card. Without proper identification, Reinaldo is not permitted to get a job in the formal work sector or even formally marry his girlfriend.

Jose, another person I met, has missed out on three scholarship opportunities to university because the government would not issue his identification card. Unable to get a formal job, Jose was offered an apprenticeship to Cuba, but then was ineligible to obtain a passport. He has, in his words, “a suspended life.”

Although World Vision has been supporting thousands of children in the Dominican Republic since 1989, I wonder where many of these children has or will end up. Nineteen-year-old Rosa, a recent graduate of child sponsorship, is grateful for World Vision’s support but now feels her “life is worth nothing” without the ability to work or enjoy the citizenship she has had her whole life.

Many Dominicans are becoming stateless with this policy – unable to vote, attend school, work in the formal sector, get married, have access to medical care or open a bank account.

World Vision is mobilising advocates through a campaign called Mi Derecho, Mi Ciudadanía (My Right, My Citizenship) to call upon leaders of the Dominican Republic to restore full citizenship rights to people affected by the Constitutional Court’s sentence. A delegation of World Vision youth advocates (see their video here) will be presenting a petition to the Dominican government on Human Rights Day (December 10). Add your name to the online petition below and join our Thunderclap on Twitter.

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