Asked about their support for the Dominican Republic’s policy of denationalization of its native-born population of Haitian descent, Charles Rangel and Adriano Espaillat each spoke in defense last night of what is arguably the worst offense against human rights in the Americas today.
As City Council Watch reported, Espaillat travelled to DR last week in order to pose with President Danilo Medina and praise the Dominican government for restoring citizenship to some 25,000 people out of roughly 200,000 who had been retroactively declared non-citizens. The government of DR had passed a 2013 law declaring that anyone born since 1929 to non-citizen parents was no longer a citizen, effectively reversing a longterm policy of jus solis, or “birthright citizenship” as we know it in the United States.
Adriano Espaillat had, to his credit, spoken out against the 2013 law, calling it inhumane, but then gave wholehearted support to the 2014 law, citing it as an exemplar of immigration reform. The supposed rectification of the human rights disaster of last year, however, was only partial. Twenty-four thousand people who had been registered according to a certain standard of correctness had their citizenship restored.
The remaining 180,000, however, are now considered undocumented residents, and a pathway to legal residency is being designed to, supposedly, normalize their status. In the meantime, however, these DR-born descendants of Haitians are in a highly vulnerable position, without the right to work, go to school, register births, or obtain travel documents.
Asked about his stance on the matter during the NY1 debate last night, Espaillat insisted that he had advocated for restitution of the rights of those affected by the 2013 ruling, and spoke of the 24,000 whose citizenship had been restored. But then he made a most telling and damning statement, praising the Dominican government for “putting in place a road to citizenship for the rest of those immigrants.” Even the staunchest worshipper of Trujillo would have to concede that Dominican-born Haitians, if not citizens, are nevertheless certainly not “immigrants.” Espaillat’s Orwellian turn of phrase essentially rewrites the birth history of some 180,000 people, making them foreigners at home.
Charles Rangel wasn’t much better. He also shook hands with President Medina and praised his humanity for having restored citizenship to those 24,000 Dominico-Haitians whose parents had registered them appropriately decades ago. Regarding the others, Rangel spoke generally about how great it would be if all countries had such expansive citizenship opportunities as the United States, but unfortunately “a sovereign country determines its own citizenship laws.”
Rangel thus echoes the rhetoric of the most perfervid Dominican comment boards, where anti-Haitian Dominican exponents rave about the inviolability of their state sovereignty. The question of the Dominico-Haitians, however, is not about violating Dominican sovereignty: it is just about not countenancing racial denationalization on a massive scale.
City Council Watch doesn’t make endorsements, but the other candidate, Michael Walrond, at least spoke sensibly on the issue.