Ex-DR President Leonel Fernandez Turns Moderate on Citizenship Debate

Should Haitian migrant children who were issued birth certificates be granted citizenship in DR?


Ex-Dominican Republic (DR) President, Leonel Fernandez, considering another run for the presidency, has taken a moderate approach to the citizenship issue that has made the DR unpopular in the international community. The Constitutional Court decision last September outlaws citizenship for Haitian descendents of illegal immigrants. The DR stipulates both parents must be Dominican for a child to be a legitimate DR citizen. Many Haitian-Dominican residents cannot access their birth certificates, being held hostage by the government.

Leonel Fernandez says the government shouldn't have legitimized the births of Haitian descendents, but now it is too late. He adds, "We should . . . recognize it--the Dominican nationality of all those, who already have birth certificates." His position makes him seem a supporter of Haitians' citizenship rights. But in the streets outside a West Palm Beach economic forum Fernandez attended, Haitian-American protestors see through his guise. They know his moderate view is only for political gain.

Current DR President, Medina, makes no apologies for the Court's ruling, but also says his government is drafting a law for naturalization of "non-citizens". Yet he defends the Court ruling, saying automatic citizenship is the exception, as in the U.S., but not in Europe and Asia.

Human rights groups claim nearly a quarter of a million people are at risk of being displaced if the Court does not reverse its decision. But according to the DR government, the estimate is closer to 13,000 Haitian descendents in jeopardy of becoming stateless.

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