Report finds Haitian descendants denied education in Dominican Republic

Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil | 5/8/2014, 8:47 a.m.
Report finds Haitian descendants denied education in Dominican Republic Description: Children of Haitian descent are increasingly being barred from access ...
Marie St. Fleur

In addition to restrictions on education, she explains that doctors, engineers and others are also having difficulty obtaining or renewing their professional licenses. “The middle class is now being impacted,” she says. “Haitian migrant workers were the first, but now it’s everyone.”

The Dominican government, however, says that these policies are intended to “give clarity to an outdated [immigration] system.”

“We seek to tackle the complex issue of immigration reform by implementing a policy for registering both national and immigrant citizens that respects each person’s contribution to Dominican society,” says Anibal de Castro, the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the United States.

On the issue of education, de Castro stresses that the Dominican Constitution “guarantees that all children have access to a free education, regardless of their migratory status,” and that government spending on education is now at an all-time high. While the Georgetown researchers don’t dispute this point, they say there’s a disconnect between this ideal and what’s happening on the ground, precisely because of the challenges statelessness presents.

“The inability to access documentation and statelessness impacts people’s access to other rights as well,” says Gibson. “Education is an enabling right, and if you don’t have access to education, that affects so many other aspects of your life and your ability to participate fully in society and improve your family situation. There are so many symptoms of statelessness, and those in turn create a chain reaction that results in a perpetuating cycle that becomes multi-generational.”

While St. Fleur is encouraged by the number of Dominicans in the United States standing up to these discriminatory practices in their own country, she says the U.S. government has not done nearly enough. “It’s not a focus for the secretary of state or the president at this time,” she says.

Without government action, St. Fleur says that ordinary people must keep the issue alive.

“The more it recedes off the front pages of the newspapers and nobody speaks about it, the more these folks are forgotten,” she says. “As a human community, we need to continue to speak up and say that the actions of the Dominican Constitutional Court violates the basic civil and human rights that the United Nations have embraced and that we in this country hold as a basic principle of a free and democratic society.”