Dominican Republic

Dominicans of Haitian descent to get legal help

Dominican President Danilo Medina will present a bill to Congress next week aimed at creating a pathway for those born to undocumented foreigners, but are not considered citizens under a recent constitutional court ruling, the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the United States said.

Dominican Ambassador Aníbal de Castro he did not have details of the plan but said Medina will present it on Thursday during his “State of the Union” address.

“It will provide for a path, a quick way to Dominican nationality to those people who can prove they were born in the Dominican Republic, that they have been living there all of their lives, that they have roots in the Dominican Republic,” de Castro said. “This solution will respect human rights and take a humanitarian approach.”

Medina’s proposed legislation comes on the heels of intense international pressure. Human rights groups, regional leaders, Haitians and others have all called on the Dominican Republic to reverse the ruling.

Critics have said the Sept. 23 decision, retroactive to 1929, leaves hundreds of thousands of individuals, the majority of them of Haitian descent, “stateless” and threatens to create a permanent under-class of people in the Spanish-speaking country.

Medina and his supporters have rejected the characterization, saying they cannot take away what someone never had. Still, the president promised Caribbean Community leaders and others that he would “implement a clear and transparent migration policy” that would provide legal status to those affected. He also promised that no one would be deported because of the court’s decision.

De Castro, meeting with The Miami Herald on Wednesday, conceded that the proposed bill came about as a result of Medina’s promise.

The U.S. called the ruling worrisome while Caribbean Community leaders called for sanctions against the Dominican Republic, including putting its application to join their 15-member regional Caricom trade bloc on hold. The issue also came up this month in meetings between Haitian President Michel Martelly and President Barack Obama and members of the U.S. Congress.

This week, the White House announced that Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit the Dominican Republic in the near-future. De Castro said while the issue could come up, he pointed out that both nations have other issues to discuss, including bilateral relations on trade and other matters.

De Castro defended the Dominican Republic, saying characterizations of it as a “racist country” is unfair and while most countries are trying to shut their borders to immigration, his nation, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and whose population represents 102 different nationalities, was doing the opposite.

“No one is being denationalized as the press has printed and some of the NGOs have said,” de Castro said. “We’re trying to regularize. We know this is the right way. This is the approach the country has to follow.”

In addition to the legislation, there is also a plan in place to help others impacted by the ruling including a no-deportation rule. On Monday, the Dominican Republic’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Organization of American States also signed an agreement that will lead to the issuing of documents to Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic.

So far, Haitian and Dominican officials have met twice in high level talks to discuss the nationality ruling and other issues impacting their souring relations.

De Castro called called the discussions “fruitful,” and so far agreements have been reached on issues of security, the environment, international crime, drug trafficking and control of the porous borders. For example, both nations have agreed to work together to issue special visas, or work permits, to seasonal Haitian laborers working in the Dominican Republic.

“The Dominican Republic wants to have better relations with Haiti,” he said.

Read more Haiti stories from the Miami Herald

A supporter of Haiti's former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide holds up a picture of him, while demonstrating in front of his house during a protest in his support, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. Supporters of the former president have been blocking the street in front of his house as the popular former leader faces possible arrest for not providing court-ordered testimony in a criminal investigation.


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Haiti's first lady Sophia Martelly, right, talks with Health Minister Florence Duperval Guillaume in a warehouse housing a donation of kits to treat chikungunya, in the Cite Soleil slum, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. The U.S. medical group Direct Relief donated millions of kits to treat the mosquito-borne virus that has sickened tens of thousands across the Caribbean over the past year.

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In this Sept. 3, 2014 photo, residents walk in the streets outside of the main prison in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. On August 11, 2014, the Croix-des-Bouquet Civil Prison, built by Canada in 2012, held some 130 inmates over its capacity, when more than 300 of them broke out in a violent confrontation. It was Haiti’s largest prison escape since 2010, when thousands of inmates fled the notorious National Penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of an earthquake that devastated the capital.

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    Sudden gunfire rattled the morning routine outside the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison and soon inmates, many barefoot and shirtless, dashed frantically from the maximum-security facility, startling street vendors as they looted their wares and fled through the unpaved streets.

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