The Dominican Citizenship Crisis

My Dominican passport expired last year; I neglected to renew it because I've never used it and didn't want to shell out 150 bucks and file paperwork. Nonetheless, I eventually decided to get a new one because, hey, you never know when you're gonna get Snowdened in an airport. I called up the Dominican consulate last spring and learned that I couldn't renew it in Europe.

I was informed that I didn't have a c├ędula (a national ID card,) so I would have to fly to the Dominican Republic, apply for a national ID card, and then apply for a new passport. "We can provide you with a carta de ruta (a provisional travel letter,)" the friendly embassy employee informed me. "Well, I was able to get a new US passport by merely showing my EU residence permit," I informed him, shocked at having learned that applying for a new Dominican passport was now such a hassle. "You have an American passport?" he asked rhetorically, "well, then you have no problems, sir."

I still don't have a Dominican passport, I'll have to wait until I return to the Dominican Republic -- perhaps many, many years from now. I'm personally not affected by the ridiculous change in law, since I have an American passport, but a great many people will be affected by the passport law passed last year: the descendants of Haitian migrants. 

The Dominican Constitutional Court recently determined that anyone born to parents "in transit" is not a Dominican citizen; the law goes back all the way to 1929. Over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent have just been effectively stripped of citizenship, and will receive a Dominican residence permit if the authorities are kind enough. 

Mass deportation of Haitians over cholera fears
A residence permit, of course, does not entitle an individual to a passport. The Dominican Republic has essentially given a choice to certain Dominicans abroad: stay there, or return and remain stranded, not being able to apply for a new passport. The Constitutional Court's decision is reminiscent of Hitler's Nuremberg Laws, and its effects will be felt well beyond the Dominican Republic's borders. 

The Dominicans of Haitian descent that will find themselves stranded abroad may well be considered stateless, and the Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the DR will find themselves rendered third-class citizens. There will likely be a surge of ex-Dominicans who make their way to Puerto Rico, a perilous journey in substandard boats traversing shark-infested waters. When the US authorities decide to deport those ex-Dominicans from Puerto Rican soil, it may very well be impossible to do. The US authorities could possibly force the Dominican government to give entry to a citizen, but not to a resident. In a twisted way, the Dominican authorities have informed Haitian-Dominicans that they should illegally immigrate. The effects of the Constitutional Court's decision have only just begun to be felt.