Defining citizenship!

In a much anticipated ruling today, the US Supreme Court on a vote of 5-4 decided that the children of undocumented immigrants born in this country do NOT qualify under the terms of the 14th Amendment as US citizens. Further, the Court majority ruled that they, along with their parents, are eligible for deportation and not entitled to public services including free public education or even the ability to hold a job to provide for their families.

Don’t panic! This has only been a test. If this had been a real SCOTUS ruling, the entire nation would be going crazy—either from despair or from glee, depending on your feelings regarding legalization or normalization of the status of the undocumented and their US-born children, often referred to by some as “anchor babies”.

However, a few hundred to the south of the United States on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola—home to the countries of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, this has become the reality! The children and grandchildren of Haitians who entered the Dominican Republic from 1929 to the present without the benefit of going through proper immigration procedures find themselves on the brink of being kicked out of the only nation they have called home.

The issue which has been winding its way through the Dominican political and legal system for a number of years finally reached the Constitutional Court which decided that the changes to the Dominican definition of citizenship are allowed and that the new definition can be applied retroactively to Dominican citizens of Haitian ancestry.

Without going into a long and dry discussion of various types of citizenship(here is a link with a better than average summary for those interested), the gist of the decision is that the citizenship status of an individual is tied to the status of his ancestors. Since most of the Haitian-Dominicans are direct descendants of workers who emigrated to the Republic years ago and never obtained legalized or normalized status, their children and grandchildren and great-children are not legal Dominican citizens entitled to the rights and privileges that go with that status. It doesn’t matter that for years the law like in the US today based citizenship on whether or not you were born physically in the country. The Court ruled that the government has the ability to change the status of these individuals retroactively based on the status of the first individuals in their family to be in the country. If your father or grandfather was undocumented, you are undocumented and not a Dominican citizen. If someone in your family line went through a naturalization process, then you can stay.

Assuming that the Dominican government goes through with its plans under the law and the Court decision, it will take approximately a year for the first deportations to Haiti to start. The question is: will Haiti welcome back these descendants of its former citizens, or will it see them as unwanted, undocumented Dominicans attempting to enter their already impoverished country? Since these individuals have no connection to Haiti, they are going to become a people without a state. I cannot think of a more lonely and horrifying existence especially given the many examples throughout human history.

By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity. Jeffery Cassity writes weekly for the Being Latino! website and writes regularly for the Sacramento Press website. His articles have also appeared previously in the El Conquistador newspaper(Milwaukee, Wisconsin), the Kenosha(WI) News and the Sacramento(CA) News & Review. Jeff also has written a number of unproduced(so far) feature movie and TV pilots which he hopes to turn into a late in life career in Hollywood, Mexico City, Beijing and/or Dublin. Follow him on Twitter @jcassity05. Also read his blog containing all his written articles I am Puddin’.

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