Haitian lawmakers voted yesterday evening to allow dual nationality for Haitians living abroad—extending them political rights such as the ownership of land and the option to run for public office. There are over two million Haitians living in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere, and yesterday’s parliamentary vote reverses a provision in Haiti’s 1987 constitution which banned dual nationality.
Prior to yesterday’s vote, Haitian expatriates were permitted to remit funds back to their homeland and even donate to presidential candidates, but they were barred from running for public office. Dual nationals under the new rules will not be allowed to run for president, or to hold the offices of prime minister, police chief or Supreme Court judge, but supporters of yesterday’s changes say they will still help to redefine what it means to be Haitian.
This legislative move has the support of the U.S. government. United States Representative Frederica Wilson, whose Miami district encompasses the largest constituency of Haitians in the United States, endorses the plan. Wilson also supports the extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) which allows Haitians to live and work in the United States legally, albeit temporarily, in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake. The TPS extension is set to expire next month.