“The Dominican Republic: An Amnesty of Nationality?”, an article by Dr. Leonel Fernández

August 3, 2015

Despite no convincing evidence has been presented of cases of stateless people in our country, nor unequivocal evidence of mass deportations or humanitarian crises, several sectors of the international community persist in projecting an image of the Dominican Republic as a racist, xenophobic, and segregationist country.

None of that is true. Nonetheless, in an editorial on July 11, 2015, entitled “Stateless in the Dominican Republic,”
the newspaper The New York Times denounced a situation of racism in our country and alleged that there are some 210,000 stateless people on Dominican soil.

In a letter sent to president Barack Obama last July 14, a group of U.S. academics requested sanctions against our country, owing to a “human rights crisis” generated by “mass deportations” and statelessness caused by denationalizations.

Declarations by the United Nation’s Work Group of Experts on People of African Descent, released on July 20, requested that the Dominican Republic grant nationality to all born on Dominican soil, and avoid “arbitrary deportations.”

Two reports from the BBC in London, published July 31, suggest that Haitian immigrants are being “forced” to abandon our country, and that despite implementation of a regularization
plan, many end up stateless.

A series of observations and recommendations contained in the recent report presented by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to the Permanent Council, recognizing “that there are people at risk of having no recognized nationality” and “the existence of displaced populations,” suggests the need to adopt a sort of agreed protocol for deportations.
Likewise, there are the declarations by Haitian
president Michel Martelly, who within the framework of a meeting with an OAS mission requested “the firm intervention of the international community” to compel the Dominican Republic to negotiate the conditions under which possible repatriations would be carried out.

Migrations and the sovereign state
An analysis of the arguments put forward makes clear that what is being sought is for the the Dominican Republic not to
return to their place of origin those illegal immigrants who do not adhere to the Regularization Plan.

In fact, the intention seems to be that, to avoid occasioning supposed statelessness, a type of migratory amnesty be declared and, in addition, that Dominican nationality be granted to anyone who alleges to have been born on our soil.

Obviously, what is being demanded of us has occurred nowhere else in the world, at no point in history. We thus have
sufficient reason to oppose suggestions that are patently absurd, ridiculous, and unwonted.

Firstly, the Dominican Republic is a sovereign and independent state, and thus the sole authority with the capacity and competence to make decisions on migration policy. In that respect, the Dominican state has repeatedly sustained that repatriations will be made in accordance with the standards of international law and human rights.

Secondly, never before has
the international community been seen to interfere in the internal affairs of an independent state to control its migration policy—not even in cases as extreme as that of sub-Saharan Africa, where thousands of people venture to cross borders and seas, putting their lives at high risk, in the attempt to reach European territory.

In Morocco (a country I have recently visited), as in the Dominican Republic, a regularization process was adopted in 2014 to allow nearly 17,000
sub-Saharan migrants to obtain residency and permission to work in that country.

Many were not covered by that process, and will soon be returned to their countries via forced repatriation. Nevertheless, unlike what has happened in our country, the attitude of the Moroccan government has been lauded by the international community as a pioneer in north Africa.

In the Middle East, nearly four million people are being affected by a legitimate humanitarian
crisis. Despite this lamentable situation, neighboring countries have not been obligated to receive these victims except in the numbers decided by the country’s own authorities.

Thus it was, for example, that the Spanish government opted to receive a total of 130 people in this current year.

But even in those cases in which certain countries’ migration policies have prompted the rejection of some sectors of society, never has a call
for intervention been issued by the international community.

Such is the case of the Bahamas. There, foreign minister Fred Mitchell posited that his government would accept no “applications for people who do not have legal status in The Bahamas to work and [for] anyone who comes to do so the application will be refused and the applicant will be arrested and charged and deported.”

He later added: “The message is that illegal
immigration is a big problem for us. … We are spending significant resources on that.

“It’s a great pressure to our systems of social services, public health and education, and we need to control the situation.”

Deportations of illegal residents
In fact, to handle the situation, the Bahamas government has carried out an extensive program of deportations that has profoundly affected illegal
Haitian immigrants, which represent between 16 and 18 percent of the population of that Caribbean country.

In Brazil, despite the government’s good intentions to grant humanitarian visas to Haitian nationals after the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010, the enormous influx of displaced people into the South American nation has obligated the authorities to be more cautious in granting those visas.

The government of Rio de Janeiro even
contemplated the possibility of closing the border with Peru to halt the entry of Haitian migrants.

In the Turks and Caicos Islands the possibility is under consideration to use drones to locate and identify illegal migrants, especially Haitians, and proceed to capture and deport them.

In the United States, only during the administration of Barack Obama, there has been an unprecedented increase in deportations of illegal migrants, affecting more than
two million people.

In the specific case of Haitian nationals, a moratorium was put in place after the earthquake to temporarily halt the deportations. Even still, more than 1,500 Haitian citizens have been repatriated by the U.S. government, despite being persons with nuclear families on U.S. soil.

The same has occurred in Canada. In that country, since 2004, the decision was taken to lift a ruling ordering the halting of deportations of Haitian
nationals for humanitarian reasons. As of that date what the Canadian government has done is offer the opportunity for those individuals to regularize their status.

In line with the Canadian government, there is no longer any logic in halting deportations, given that Haiti is no longer at war nor suffering serious civil conflict; those persons displaced to the interior of Haitian territory have been reinstalled in more secure homes; living conditions in general, political
stability, and the level of security have all improved; and other countries such as France and Brazil have already sent Haitian nationals back to their country.

Behind all these decisions adopted by the aforementioned governments there are personal tragedies, sad episodes, and lamentable incidences of families torn apart by the separation. All that, of course, provokes our dismay, and is precisely why the international community must work to build a better

What the international community must not do is judge the decisions adopted by sovereign states to protect their territory and people. Nor does it behoove the international community to demand that the Dominican Republic declare a general migratory amnesty or grant Dominican nationality to all born on our soil.

This has never been forced on any state in the world, and constitutes a form of interference that denies our sovereignty as a state. Such
interference we must firmly reject.

What is being asked of the Dominican Republic, in short, is unjust and unreasonable. Nor does it correspond with current international norms or with the practices of other members of the international community.

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