Resolution on the Rights of Haitians of Dominican Descent in the Dominican Republic
Adopted by the Governing Board
September 24, 2007
As Christians and people of faith, we arc called to follow the example of Jesus Christ to challenge the sin of injustice committed against the powerless in society. The teachings of the Scriptures clearly entreat us to welcome and grant hospitality to the stranger (Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10: 18-19; Matt. 25: 44-45; Heb. 13:2); to seek economic justice; (Matt. 12: 1-8; Micah 6:8; Lev. 25: 18-19; Amos 5:24); and to defend the oppressed (Ex. 22:21-23; Job 31: 13-15; Prov. 29:7; Lam. 3:35-36; Zec. 7:9-10; Luke 16:19-25).
Agricultural Missions Inc (AMI), which is an organization related to the Justice and Advocacy Commission of the National Council of Churches USA, held its 2007 Study Session in the Dominican Republic from March 14 - 17, 2007, with the theme "Migration, Racism and Globalization in the Context of the Dominican Republic and Haiti." This event focused on the status of Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic and found rampant and systematic violations of human rights, as well as discrimination, being committed against this population. This situation has existed for decades despite attempts by those suffering these injustices, various human rights, non-governmental and religious organizations, to bring some measure of justice to the Dominico-Haitian population.
AMI and its board committed itself to specific actions to assist in ending this injustice, including awareness-raising within the churches of the United States, and brought this resolution to the JAC. The JAC approved the resolution on June 19, 2007, and now forwards it to the Governing Board for adoption.
The Constitution of the Dominican Republic, by the principle of jus soli, guarantees citizenship to persons born within the territorial boundaries of the country, regardless of the legal status of their parents;
The current and past governments of the Dominican Republic routinely denies this right of citizenship because of race to persons of Haitian ancestry who were born in the country by refusing to issue birth certificates to them;
Persons who lack birth certificates are essentially stateless (as confirmed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights), unable to obtain identity and travel documents and are denied access to basic state-provided social services, such as health and education, making them vulnerable to exploitation, marginalization and poverty; and,
Advocates for the human rights of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic have been harassed in the media, and have received threats of physical harm and loss of Dominican citizenship;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
The National Council of Churches USA calls upon the government of the Dominican Republic to uphold its constitution by issuing birth certificates to all children born in the country, to respect the human and civil rights of Haitian migrants and their descendants living in the Dominican Republic, and to guarantee the protection of those advocating for justice for Dominico-Haitians;
The National Council of Churches USA encourages its member communions to learn about the issues involved in this situation and to advocate with appropriate US Governmental officials so that diplomatic pressure might be applied so as to rectify this situation.
"Immigrants, Refugees and Migrants" (Adopted by NCCCUSA General Board, 5/14/81)
"Latin America and the Caribbean" (Adopted by NCCCUSA General Board, 11/1/83)
"Racial Justice" (Adopted by NCC General Board, 11/10/84)
"Human Rights: The Fulfillment of Life in the Social Order" (Adopted by the NCCCUSA General Board, 11/17/95)
Addendum: background information provided by Agricultural Missions Inc., as requested by the Justice and Advocacy Commission for further study by the Churches:
THEY ARE DOMINICANS
The Injustice of Denial of Citizenship to Persons of Haitian Ancestry Born in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti share the island of Hispaniola, with Haiti occupying approximately the western third of the island. Both countries were colonized by European powers after the arrival of Christopher Columbus In 1492 - the then colony of Santo Domingo (Spanish side) by both Spain and France and Haiti by France. Both were subjected to invasion and occupation by the United States at various times in their history - Haiti from 1915 to 1934 and the DR from 1916-1924 and again in 1965-66. Haiti, following its successful fight for independence from France, also conquered and occupied its neighbor for twenty-two years between 1822 and 1844.
The current political and economic conditions, between the DR and Haiti, represent very stark differences. With a per capita Income in 2003 of about US $400, Haiti has been often described as "the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere." Seventy five percent of the population live below the poverty level and unemployment is above fifty percent, factory workers earn less than $3 per day in a country where one percent of the population control forty percent of the nation's wealth. Since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, the country has been in a state of political crisis and uncertainty. A nine thousand-member United Nations peacekeeping force now tries to contain the anarchy and violence that continue to wrack the country after the elected President Jean - Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile in 1994,
The Dominican Republic is classified by the World Bank as a "middle income” developing country with a per capita income in 2003 of US $6000. The country has a seventeen percent unemployment rate and twenty percent of the population living below the poverty line. The DR too had its share of dictatorial regimes -from 1930 to 1961 and a military government from 1963 to 1965 that was ended with the intervention of the United States. Since that time the country has had a series of elected governments and presidents, most with very close ties to the United States.
The economic success of the DR, as compared to Haiti, was due in large part to investment from the United Slates, particularly in the sugar industry beginning in the late nineteenth century. (The tobacco Industry and livestock rearing also account for its wealth). While Sugar production was a lucrative industry, it required extensive manual labor for cultivation and harvesting the sugar cane. With fewer and fewer Dominicans willing to work in the fields, out of economic necessity the government-regulated industry looked to towards its impoverished neighbor Haiti as a source of cheap labor. The 1920 census indicated about 28,000 Haitians living in the DR and by 1935 this was estimated to be about 50,000 (library of Congress Country Studies). Amnesty International estimates that there are between 500,000 and one million Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the DR (Amnesty International On line Documentation Archive.)
The presence of Haitians in the DR has always been a source of political fodder, with rampant injustices including practices of discrimination, exploitation and denial of basic human and civil rights by the employers, the government and its security forces. Regular arbitrary, violent and inhuman "round -ups" and deportation of Haitians are carried out by the security forces and the Dominican public, in general, has no sympathy for the victims. Haitians provide the vast majority of the labor in the agricultural sector and increasingly in the construction and service sectors and in the "informal economy." It is estimated that Haitians earn sixty per cent less than their Dominican counterparts for similar jobs (Library of Congress Country Studies.) This discrimination against the Haitians is believed to be largely based on race and skin color as other migrant groups in the DR do not suffer the same treatment or face the same obstacles to participation in society.
One of the most egregious forms of discrimination against Haitians is the refusal of the government to issue birth certificates to children of Haitian parentage born in the DR. This is a violation of the law and constitution of the DR that grants citizenship to all persons born in the country, regardless of immigration status. Without birth certificates, these persons are essentially stateless, cannot obtain identity or travel documents, cannot attend public schools or access public services and cannot participate in the electoral process or other civic endeavors;. The denial of birth certificates is one sure way of maintaining a perpetual underclass and a pool of cheap labor while condemning generations to persistent poverty.
After many unsuccessful attempts by the Dominico-Haitian community and many local and international NGOs and religious organizations to force the government to adhere to its own constitution and grant birth certificates to children born in the DR of Haitian parents, the matter was brought to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), to which the DR is a signatory. The case was filed seven years ago on behalf of two girls of Haitian descent by the Movement of Dominican Women of Haitian Descent (MUDHA), the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL.)
In its ruling of October 2006, the Court concluded that the "DR had violated the rights of children of Haitian ancestry and rendered them stateless by refusing to issue their birth certificates because of their race" (CEJIL.) In addition, the Court ordered the DR to reform its birth registration system and to issue birth certificates to children born in the country regardless of the immigration status or race of their parents; open schools to all children, including children of Haitian ancestry, publicly acknowledge responsibility for the violations and apologize to the victims. As one of the twenty-two nations that have ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, the ruling of the Court is obligatory and the government must comply. Speaking on the day of the ruling, Sonia Pierre, the General Coordinator of MUDHA stated, "Today's ruling is a victory for children's rights and sends a clear message that the Dominican state must put an end to discrimination."
But the victory in court has for MUDHA and its leaders meant suffering severe backlash in the DR. MUDHA was founded more than twenty years ago to provide "support for the woman migrant" who had even fewer rights that their male counterparts. With the assistance of MUDHA, Haitian migrant women now have the right to enter in contractual agreements, independent of men. In addition to advocacy and education in the human rights arena, MUDHA is also engaged in providing schools and health services to the migrant communities lacking these services. As a result of this advocacy and the case brought before the IACHR, the profile and visibility of MUDHA and its General Coordinator, Sonia Pierre have been raised, resulting in negative media reports and worse.
Ms. Pierre has received death threats against herself and her family and they now live in fear of their lives. Unknown person(s) removed her portrait, one of a photographic exhibit of "100 Excellent Dominican Women" on display at Independence Park in Santo Domingo. There have been expressions by some government officials and newspaper editorials denouncing Ms. Pierre and MUDHA for being part of an "international conspiracy" to tarnish the reputation of the government of the DR.
Perhaps most alarming was an effort by the Central Electoral Board (JCE), an arm of the government of the DR to annul the birth certificate of Ms. Pierre, granted in 1963, based on questions of the legal status of her parents and the validity of their documents at the time of her birth.
Ms. Pierre was the recipient of the 2006 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for her work to advance the human rights and bring justice to Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the DR. "We believe Soma Pierre has been targeted for investigation because of her work on behalf of human rights in the Dominico-Haitian community," stated Monika Kalra Varma, Director of the Robert F Kennedy Center for Human Rights. "The final authority for these decisions rests not with the JCE, but with the courts", said Varma. "She is a Dominican and is entitled to an impartial and transparent judicial process."
The immediacy of this situation is somewhat decreased as the government tries to decide whether the JCE has the authority to annul Ms. Pierre's birth certificate, and those of her children. This, however, does not settle the question and such a threat is very unsettling, at the very least.
*Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights Award http://www.rfkmemorial.org/
*Inter American Court Decision http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=103001
*Inter-American Justice Comes to the Dominican Republic: An Island Shakes as Human
*Rights and Sovereignty Clash https://www.wcl.american.edu/hrbrief/13/2baluarte.pdf?rd=1
*Haitian Struggle in Dominican Republic http://www.margueritelaurent.com/campaigns/campaigntwo/DRreport.html
*Church World Service Director's Visit http://www.churchworldservice.org/news/archives/2006/06/495.html
*Justice for Haitian Refugees Conference http://www.ncccusa.org/news/03news13.html