10/25/2013 04:47 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Dominican Republic's Disappearing People

I strongly condemn the recent decision of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic; retroactively rescinding the citizenship of persons of Haitian lineage born in the Dominican Republic. The Constitutional Court's ruling relinquishes the citizenship of any person born on the soil of the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents from 1929 on, effectively denying hundreds of thousands of persons of Haitian consanguinity their rightful citizenship leaving them stateless. I admittedly lack a full understanding of the inner workings of the government of the Dominican Republic, but have to pose the questions- What does this mean for children's right to education? The elderly's right to government resources? How does one acquire a passport or travel internationally? Did the ruling effectively turn a person into a stateless non-person?

The ruling discriminates and oppresses a group of persons based upon their national origin and race, violating international human rights norms. In particular, the court's ruling violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights, and the International Convention of Elimination of Racial Discrimination, all of which the Dominican Republic ratified. The Dominican Republic has a history of xenophobic behavior targeting persons of Haitian descent and denying their basic civil and human rights. In 1937 dictator President Trujillo ordered the massacre of 20,000 to 30,000 persons of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic; the event became known as the Parsley Massacre. The Constitutional Court's recent ruling continues the legacy of the Dominican Republic's human rights abuses targeting persons of Haitian descent, and should be subject to immediate review and reversal.

We cannot remain silent at a time when any nation seeks to instill such repressive and dehumanizing measures as to relinquish the citizenship of persons based on xenophobic and discriminatory principles contradicting established international human rights norms. I would urge national and community leaders to organize economic boycotts of the tourism industry and discourage travel to the Dominican Republic until the rights of its citizens are fully recognized and restored. Large corporations and hotel chains conducting business in the Dominican Republic should similarly seek to use their economic prowess to pressure the government to institute a full restoration of rights to disempowered citizens.

The United States has its own history of immigration laws steeped in inequitable principles and racially biased underpinnings which will be addressed in a separate piece; however, we cannot ignore such an archaic ruling setting the progress of human rights back centuries. The international community should not tolerate the institution of such a repressive measure in any nation, as its precedence poses a threat to the basic rights of human beings in every nation. The world heard the cries of Haitian children when its lands were shaken by a natural disaster- an earthquake that claimed an unknown number of lives. Now, persons of Haitian descent face a man-made disaster that seeks to deny the very existence of those same lives. Let the international community stand by our brothers and sisters of the Haitian diaspora, and force the Dominican Republic to recognize the full dignity to which every man, woman, and child is entitled.