Stateless people in Dominican Republic hope to regain citizenship


 (Photo: Orlando Barra / European Pressphoto Agency)

By Allyn Gaestel *

Maribel Campusano Fajardo smiles shyly at the ring on her left hand. “The ring is just a promise, because we can’t get married without the identity card,” the 25-year-old said.

Fajardo’s fiance, Rafael Toussaint, 26, is one of thousands of people born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents rendered stateless by legal policies until last month.

In May, the Dominican Congress approved a law that will regularize the status of many people like Toussaint. It ends an eight-month legal standoff that followed a Constitutional Court ruling that canceled the citizenship of those born after 1929 to immigrants without proper documentation.

The ruling made retroactive nationality policies outlined in the 2010 constitution. It affected an estimated 210,000 people, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of them were born during an era when citizenship was granted automatically.

The new law will enable those who possess birth certificates — about 24,000 people, according to the government — to regain their citizenship. But those who never had birth certificates will have to prove that they were born in the country and apply for naturalization.

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