Monday, December 16, 2013

Haitian 'Dreamers' in Dominican Republic shut out of citizenship

Ana María Belique Delba and Noemi Mendez were both born and raised on bateyes, or sugarcane workers’ compounds, in the Dominican Republic. Ana María’s parents are from Haiti while Noemi’s hail from the D.R.

Noemi is a leading human rights attorney who’s fought alongside Ana María to get her birth certificate from Dominican authorities, so that Ana María could get an identity card, or cedula, which makes it possible for a person to attend school or get a job. Over several days, during a recent visit to Miami, the women — one with skin the color of chocolate and the other the color of caramel — sometimes act like sisters, sometimes like mother and daughter. Ana María uses her Spanish accented Creole to translate for Noemi during stops at churches and radio stations. They share meals. They share laughs. They share an important cause: redefining citizenship in their homeland.

On September 23, 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic ruled that citizenship can only be granted to people who were born to one Dominican parent since 1929. Asked to rule in the case of one person, a Dominican-born woman named Juliana Deguis Pierre, who like Ana María was seeking identity papers, the court decided to render Ms. Pierre, Ana María, and retroactively, four generations of their compatriots, stateless. This would be as if American adults, whose grandparents came to the United States in the 1930s, suddenly had their citizenship stripped away. In the meantime, they would be expected to apply to their grandparents’ birthplace for papers.

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