In his first trip to the Dominican Republic, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the heated topic of citizenship laws, urging Dominican and Haitian leaders to collaborate on a humane solution.
Lawmakers approved Naturalization Law 169-14 in May of this year in response to a 2013 court decision that stripped nationality from individuals born between 1929 and 2007 in the Dominican Republic to non-native parents without residency permits.
The court sentence directly affects thousands of descendants of Haitian immigrants. Although Dominican authorities claim that only 13,000 Haitian descendants have been affected, NGOs and humanitarian groups estimate the number to be over 210,000.
“With a large majority of immigrants coming from Haiti, it is critical that the governments of Haiti and Dominican Republic cooperate closely to provide the necessary identification for Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic,” said Ki-moon. He also warned against the “privatization of nationality” and said the right of all people should be protected.
However, many Dominican leaders defended the laws. “It’s not true that we discriminate against Haitian citizens because of their race or color, and because of nationality issues,” said President of the Senate Reinaldo Pared, who asserted that the UN’s focus should be on securing the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
During his trip, Ki-moon also lauded the Dominican Republic’s contributions to art, literature and sports, and praised the country’s allocation of four percent of GDP to education. Ki-moon also visited Haiti earlier this week, where he launched a sanitation project as part of a solution to the cholera epidemic that has affected over 700,000 people, killing an estimated 8,500.
Stay tuned for Americas Quarterly’s Summer 2014 issue for an in-depth analysis of the Dominican Republic’s citizenship laws.