Justice derailed : the uncertain fate of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic

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International Law and Organizations Program, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Over time, the Dominican Republic formalized a more restrictive definition of citizenship by birth. By expanding the interpretation of what it means to be “in transit,” the Dominican Republic began to chip away at its jus soli (right of soil) regime. Given the long history of migration from Haiti to the Dominican Republic and demographic realities, this shift has had a disproportionate impact on individuals of Haitian descent. The redefinition of the jus soli basis for citizenship reached its peak in the now infamous sentence of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic, 168-13. In September 2013, the Constitutional Tribunal issued Sentence 168-13, which retroactively denationalized and effectively rendered stateless many Dominicans of Haitian descent by establishing that children born in the Dominican Republic to those illegally residing in the country were not entitled to citizenship by birth, as their parents were considered to be “in transit.” The Sentence further called for a national regularization plan. In an effort to implement Sentence 168-13, the Dominican government established the National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners (PNRE). The PNRE is a plan to regularize the status of undocumented migrants in the Dominican Republic, which most notably impacts Haitian migrants. Following international backlash over Sentence 168-13, Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina issued Law 169-14 (Naturalization Law), which provides a pathway to naturalization for those effectively left stateless by the Sentence. This report will detail the problems in the implementation of the PNRE and the Naturalization Law, how various actors were involved in or impacted by the regularization and naturalization processes, and finally, will outline the constraints that may inhibit the work of policy makers and human rights defenders in addressing immigration and citizenship issues going forward.
Dominican Republic, Haiti, Hispaniola, Migration, Citizenship, Sentence 168-13, Migration flows, Human rights