Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nationality, citizenship, and Hispaniola

Immigration is a complex issue for the dual nations that share the island of Hispaniola: Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Both countries have taken distinct measures relating to nationality rights with Haiti choosing to expand them while its neighbor opted to restrict them.

Haitian legislators on Sunday vote to amend the constitution and permit expats the opportunity to have dual nationality. Haitians abroad would thus gain numerous political privileges including the ownership of land as well as the ability to run for certain public offices.

The vote came on the eve of a May 9th deadline for lawmakers to vote on amending Haiti’s 1987 constitution.

The amendment, which is expected to affect an estimated two million Haitians living abroad, reportedly received support from the U.S. government.

The amendment was short of granting Haitians dual citizenship, which would’ve granted those living abroad the right to vote. But for Joseph Bernadel, an expat interviewed by The Miami Herald, the dual nationality measure “gives a clear message to people of Haitian ancestry who have gone to the diaspora that there is a place for them in Haiti, not only in the reconstruction aspect, but in the everyday life in Haiti.’’

In the Dominican Republic, meanwhile, officials have reportedly upped the ante in denying birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. As written in a GlobalPost article published on Monday, the Dominican Republic since changing their constitution last year has “retroactively applied” a clause affecting offspring born to undocumented parents. The action has affected thousands of residents including those who have lived for decades in the Dominican Republic and others unaware that their parents were undocumented.

“I’ve spent my entire career working for this government and I’m ashamed of it now,” said Carmen Augustine de Santana who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic but was recently informed that she did not qualify for that country’s citizenship since her mother illegally migrated from Haiti.

Dominican immigration officials interviewed by GlobalPost denied that the actions were based on race or specifically targeting Haitian migrants. Yet Haitian expat community leaders in the Dominican Republic alleged that authorities have been unfairly targeting undocumented Haitian migrants over those originally from other countries.

The complexities of the immigration issue between Haiti and the Dominican Republic are similar to the debate over that topic in the U.S. (A debate likley to be reignited with U.S. President Barack Obama'a visit to Texas today). As written in GlobalPost last August:
Both involve a porous border that separates a wealthier country from a poorer neighbor. Migrants leave in search of a job. They send money home. Many end up staying, illegally. And like the anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S., the Dominican argument against Haitians comes down to economics. The Haitians, they say, are a drain on the government. They take jobs. They strain already overcrowded health clinics and hospitals. Dominican authorities deported an average of 20,417 Haitians a year from 2003 to 2008, according to a report from the Universidad Centroamericana.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- HaitiLibre.com, Americas Quarterly blog, GlobalPost, MSNBC, Miami Herald, Sacramento Bee, AFP

1 comment:

Alfredo said...

The article started with the subject of dual citizenship. Haiti has just implemented it but the Dominican Republic has had dual citizenship for many years already.