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Thought you were a citizen? Dominican Republic changes the rules

For five years, Altagracia Jean Joseph has fought for the Dominican government to recognize her as a citizen.

Born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents, she was 23 when she first asked for a copy of her birth certificate, a document needed here to do everything from marry to attend university.

Even though Ms. Jean Joseph was previously registered as a citizen and her father was in the country legally when she was born, the civil registrar refused to provide the document because they assumed she was Haitian, she said.

“All of the sudden one day they told me I wasn’t Dominican because I had a strange last name,” says Jean Joseph.

She eventually convinced the civil registry to give her a copy of her birth certificate, only to watch her three siblings later struggle through the same situation. “This is our lives they are affecting,” says Jean Joseph. She may have been legally registered here at birth, but many government institutions and employers require a recently certified copy of a birth certificate to apply for basic services.

Now, her future is again in question. Last week the Dominican Republic’s top court ruled that children of immigrants – like Jean Joseph – do not qualify for citizenship even if they were born here.

In a ruling that shocked both national and international observers, the Dominican Constitutional Court ordered authorities to review the civil registry dating back to 1929, potentially stripping citizenship from hundreds of thousands of people, and creating a massive population of stateless people.

“This would qualify as one of the largest populations of functionally stateless people in the world,” says Liliana Gamboa, a Santo Domingo-based representative for the Open Society Justice Initiative. ”We’re talking about potentially four generations of people who always believed they were Dominican being now told they are not.”

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Category: DR News |

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Last updated January 21, 2018 at 12:31 AM
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