SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Dominican human rights activists Tuesday announced planned demonstrations across the country in coming days to protest a court ruling that effectively strips citizenship rights from Dominican-born children of Haitian immigrants.
The announcement came as Haiti recalled its ambassador to the country for consultation on what Foreign Minister Pierre-Richard Casimir called a worrying decision by Dominican authorities on the fate of up to 300,000 people born in the country since 1929, most of whom are descendants of Haitians. The ruling from the nation’s top court cannot be appealed.
Dominican officials defended the ruling, saying it ends uncertainty for children of immigrants and opens the door for them to apply for residency and eventually citizenship but no plan is currently in place.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a report in response to a complaint brought under the free trade agreement between the United States and the Dominican Republic, known as the Central America Free Trade Agreement–Dominican Republic (CAFTA–DR), which detailed severe worker abuse on sugar plantations. The vast majority of sugar workers are Haitian or of Haitian descent. Most are undocumented, leaving them particularly vulnerable to extreme exploitation. The DOL’s report confirms ongoing, systematic abuses, including the use of child and forced labor; hazardous working conditions; wage theft; denial of medical, pension and other benefits if the worker is undocumented; routine violations of minimum wage and overtime rules; and retaliatory firings against union activists and workers who attempt to mount legal challenges against their employer. Unfortunately, this is not news to anyone familiar with the issue—the industry has been under fire for decades and has been the subject of multiplestudies and media reports.