The 2010 constitution states that anyone born in the country is a citizen, except children born to diplomats, children born to parents who are “in transit,” or children born to parents who are in the country illegally. In 2005 the Supreme Court upheld the 2004 General Law on Migration, which redefined the term “in transit” from a foreigner who entered the country to reach another destination to all temporary workers, and then later to irregular migrants. Under the law, the constitutional exception that denied citizenship to Dominican-born children of persons in transit no longer applied just to parents that were transiting through the country for a period of 10 days or less, but instead applied to all nonresidents having an “in transit” status. The law broadly defines nonresidents to include tourists, students, temporary foreign workers, and irregular migrants. The Civil Registry, managed by the Central Electoral Board (JCE), retroactively applied the migration law and refused to issue new identity documentation or renew expired documentation for those suspected of being children of foreign parents who had not proven their residency or legal status in the country, maintaining they were improperly issued birth certificates.
Even prior to implementation of the constitution, as redefined in 2004, authorities denied citizenship to children of irregular migrants. Prior to 2004, migration laws granted “in transit” privileges to foreigners who entered the country “with the principal intention of proceeding through the country to an exterior destination.” In 2007 the JCE established a registration system, known as the “Foreign Birth Registry,” that allowed children born in the country of parents who were not legal residents to receive a special birth certificate. Such children whose parents had documentation from their home country may be registered in the book, after which the parents would be given an official report of birth that does not confer citizenship. Local and international NGOs reported that, since implementation of the Foreign Birth Registry, hospitals and civil registries did not register numerous children of Haitian migrants and their descendants. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 children were born to Haitian migrants and their descendants each year, but few of the children registered in the Foreign Birth Registry were of Haitian descent. NGOs reported that some Haitian parents, who were in the country legally and whose children were citizens under the law, were required to register their children’s births in the foreigners’ book.
Civil registry authorities simultaneously began to review the legal status and civil documentation of Dominicans of Haitian descent. Many of these individuals were born on the country’s territory at a time when it was generally accepted that the constitution’s jus soli provision granted them citizenship. Since 2007, however, officials have taken strong measures against providing citizenship to persons of Haitian descent born in the country, whose parents were unable to document their legal stay in the country. These measures included refusals to renew Dominican birth and identity documents, resulting in legal statelessness. The government stated that such refusals were based on evidence of fraudulent documentation, but advocacy groups alleged the actions targeted persons whose parents were Haitian or whose names sounded Haitian and thus constituted acts of denationalization.
As a result of these policies, the descendants of Haitian migrants who worked and settled in the country throughout the 20th century--who were born in the country prior to 2010 and enjoyed a right to Dominican citizenship--faced an increased risk of becoming stateless. This was exacerbated by the fact that, until 2012, the constitution did not allow dual citizenship. Individuals of Haitian descent who obtained Dominican citizenship forfeited their right to Haitian citizenship. Additionally, acquiring Haitian citizenship through the application of a jus sanguinis framework could pose problems for persons whose parents had lost meaningful links with Haiti or did not have proof of Haitian citizenship because of their long-established presence in the country. These problems became more serious for second-generation and third-generation persons born in the country.
In 2013 the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that children born in the country to foreigners “in transit” were not considered Dominican citizens. The tribunal ordered the JCE to audit its birth registry back to 1929 to identify foreigners who might be registered improperly and transfer them to a separate foreign birth registration list. The tribunal noted that foreigners in transit may modify their immigration status to obtain legal permanent residency.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), UNHCR, and the Caribbean Community expressed deep concern over the 2013 Constitutional Tribunal judgment. The IACHR conducted a site visit to the country in 2013, and its preliminary findings considered that the 2013 tribunal ruling implied an arbitrary deprivation of citizenship and that the ruling had a discriminatory effect, stripped citizenship retroactively, and led to statelessness for individuals not considered citizens.
In May 2014 the president signed and promulgated law 169-14, “the Special Status of Individuals born in the territory with an irregular registration in the Civil Registry and on Naturalization.” On July 29, the government began implementation of the law. Law 169-14 proposes to regularize and (re)issue identity documents to approximately 24,392 individuals, born to “in transit” parents in the country between June 16, 1929, and April 18, 2007, who were previously registered in the civil registry (Group A), recognizing them as Dominican citizens from birth. Based on an exhaustive audit of the national civil registry archives, that number grew to 54,307. The law also created a special path to citizenship for persons born to “in transit” parents who were never registered in the civil registry, including an estimated 55,000-80,000 undocumented persons mainly of Haitian lineage (Group B). Group B persons had to demonstrate that they were born in the country prior to April 18, 2007 when the Foreigners’ Birth Registry began. Their names could subsequently be recorded in that registry. Once registered, members of Group B could start the process to obtain a permanent resident permit. After two years, they may apply for naturalization. The first 90-day application period for Group B ended in October 26, 2014. A November 2014 amendment extended the deadline an additional 90 days. On January 31, at the close of the implementation period, 8,755 individuals from Group B applied. As of November the government approved 6,262 cases and continued processing the remaining cases.
On June 26, the JCE published the results of an internal audit of children of migrants “in transit” who had been improperly inscribed in the civil registry dating back to 1929 (Group A). The audit resulted in a list of 54,307 names. The JCE announced that these individuals’ civil records had been retranscribed into a separate civil registry book and their original civil registrations annulled. The JCE invited those on the list to report to JCE offices and pick up a reissued birth certificate. The vast majority of persons on the list were of Haitian descent. As of September the JCE reported that it had issued 14,000 (or 26 percent) of retranscribed birth certificates of the 54,307 Group A persons. Civil society groups reported that many of the remaining 74 percent of individuals continued to experience difficulties obtaining reissued birth certificates at JCE offices. NGOs also documented cases of individuals who they determined qualified as Group A and were not included in the JCE’s audit results list, although the JCE annulled their civil registrations for having been improperly inscribed. There was no overall estimate of the size of this population.
The government stated publicly that it would find a solution for any individual who qualified but did not apply or benefit from Law 169-14 and that such a solution would mirror the legal citizenship paths created under that law. The government also stated that it would not deport anyone born in the country.
A 2012 National Statistics Office and UN Population Fund study estimated the total Haitian population in the country at 668,145, of whom 458,233 were identified as Haitian immigrants and 209,912 were categorized as persons of Haitian descent. The exact number of undocumented persons remained unclear.
Dominican-born persons of Haitian descent without citizenship or identity documents faced obstacles traveling both within and outside the country. In addition, undocumented persons may not obtain national identification cards (cedulas) or voting cards. Persons who did not have a cedula or birth certificate had limited access to electoral participation, formal-sector jobs, public education, marriage and birth registration, formal financial services such as banks and loans, access to courts and judicial procedures, and ownership of land or property.
In November 2013 the President Medina decreed an amnesty, called the Regularization Plan for Foreigners. The plan foresaw a “special path to naturalization” that would benefit foreigners who entered the country irregularly; foreigners who entered legally but overstayed or violated the conditions of their stay; and minors registered on the civil registry who were born in the country to nonresident mothers. The President Medina also declared a hold on deportations during the period of the plan’s implementation. In August the Regularization Plan granted temporary residency status to approximately 240,000 irregular migrants (98 percent Haitian). An NGO estimated that as many as 280,000 Haitian migrants did not apply for regularization and were subject to deportation. On August 14, the government resumed deportations, reporting a total of approximately 7,400 deportations from August through October. Of those deported, 99 percent were Haitian migrants.
Between July and October, UN officials conducted more than 15 missions to the country’s four main border-crossing points and seven reception centers to observe the deportation process carried out by authorities. They also accompanied migration authorities during interception procedures conducted in different provinces. UN officials reported that they observed orderly, legal, and individualized procedures, in compliance with applicable international human rights standards. There were five government-operated immigration detention centers in use, of which only one existed in 2014.
As of October the government reported that it issued 750 permanent residency cards and birth certificates to the 8,755 applicants under Law 169-14 and that 6,262 cases were already approved and in the process of issuance. The government stated it would find a citizenship solution to mirror that of Law 169-14 for any individuals who qualified but did not apply during the implementation period.