Local November 7, 2013 | 11:21 am

Ruling on citizenship “appalling”: Prominent Dominican writers abroad

New York.- Two prominent Dominican writers abroad called the Constitutional Court ruling which denies citizenship to Haitians’ offspring born in Dominican Republic "appalling" because in their view, strips them of a nationality.

Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz and Julia Alvarez, author of a novel about the Mirabal sisters, made the statement in a letter to the New York Times, which is also signed by Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat and American author Mark Kurlansky.

"For all those who had thought that there was a new Dominican Republic, a modern State leaving behind abuse and racism of the past, the highest court in the country, has taken a step backward with ruling 0168-13," the authors said.

"According to this ruling, Dominicans born to undocumented parents should have their citizenship revoked. "The ruling, retroactive to 1929, affects some 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent, including many who have had no personal contact with Haiti for many generations," they said.

"Such appalling racism is the continuation of a history of constant abuse, including the infamous Dominican massacre, ordered by dictator Rafael Trujillo in which an estimated 20,000 Haitians were killed in five days in October 1937," the authors said, adding that one of the important lessons from the Holocaust, “is that the first step to genocide is to deprive people of their right to citizenship,"

"What will happen now with these 20,000 people – without a status to go to any other country?" Diaz, Alvarez, Dandicat and Kurlansky ask.

THE FULL LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES:

"For any who thought that there was a new Dominican Republic, a modern state leaving behind the abuse and racism of the past, the highest court in the country has taken a huge step backward with Ruling 0168-13.

According to this ruling, the Dominicans born to undocumented parents are to have their citizenship revoked. The ruling, retroactive to 1929, affects an estimated 200,000 Dominican people of Haitian descent, including many who have had no personal connection with Haiti for several generations.

Such appalling racism is a continuation of a history of constant abuse, including the infamous Dominican massacre, under the dictator Rafael Trujillo, of an estimated 20,000 Haitians in five days in October 1937.

One of the important lessons of the Holocaust is that the first step to genocide is to strip a people of their right to citizenship.

What will happen now to these 200,000 people — stateless with no other country to go to?

The ruling will make it challenging for them to study; to work in the formal sector of the economy; to get insurance; to pay into their pension fund; to get married legally; to open bank accounts; and even to leave the country that now rejects them if they cannot obtain or renew their passport. It is an instantly created underclass set up for abuse.

How should the world react? Haven’t we learned after Germany, the Balkans and South Africa that we cannot accept institutionalized racism?

MARK KURLANSKY
JUNOT DÍAZ
EDWIDGE DANTICAT
JULIA ALVAREZ

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