Rosanna is a bright 17-year-old who was born in the Dominican Republic. She was raised by parents who migrated from Haiti over 20 years earlier. For two years she has been unwittingly enmeshed in an increasingly contested national struggle over who is, and who is not, a Dominican national.
In 2013, a Dominican high court ruling retroactively removed citizenship from tens of thousands of Dominicans. Most of them, like Rosanna, are of Haitian descent—a historically marginalized community. This has left them unable to perform basic civil functions such as register children at birth, enroll in school and university, participate in the formal economy, or travel in the country without risk of expulsion. Forced to quit public school, Rosanna now picks and sells fruit in the countryside for less than $3 a bucket.
In 2014, President Danilo Medina’s administration attempted to mitigate the high court ruling with a naturalization law aimed at recognizing the citizenship claims of those affected by the 2013 decision.
The 2014 Naturalization Law offered a seemingly simple solution: the government would recognize the nationality of those already registered with the state as Dominicans, and issue any additional documents necessary to fully exercise their citizenship rights. For those not yet registered, the government would first establish a registration process, then issue the requisite documents for those entitled to citizenship.
However, despite a promising legal framework, Human Rights Watch research finds that the law has been fraught with design and implementation flaws that have thwarted the re-nationalization process. This report outlines the context for denationalization, details the laudable intent but practical failures of the 2014 Naturalization Law, and documents arbitrary expulsions and questionable legal procedures that various government entities have carried out in contravention of the law’s stated goals. These practices continue to arbitrarily deprive individuals of their right to Dominican nationality and citizenship-related rights. Despite the law’s shortcomings, in August 2015, the government is due to begin expelling those, like Rosanna, who were denationalized. via | Human Rights Watch