Dominican Republic

Communist Party of Labour (PCT)

They are not Haitians... They are Dominicans!

The issue of the rights of Dominican citizens descended from Haitian immigrant parents in the Dominican Republic has become headline news in the press due to a decision recently adopted by the Constitutional Court, which strips their nationality from those citizens by arguing that their parents “were in the country illegally.” In this regard the Communist Party of Labor makes its views known.

The issue is taken up periodically under different circumstances, and this decision follows on the now famous Resolution 12-2007 adopted by the Central Electoral Board, which stripped thousands of Dominican citizens of their birth certificates who were in regular possession of their documents.

This article proposes to reveal the double standard of those who continue to deny basic rights to Dominicans of Haitian parents.

The existence of a common border and the circumstances that have historically permeated this reality provides an objective basis to give substance to the so-called Dominican-Haitian problem beyond its manipulation by the ruling sectors. But Dominicans of democratic inclination who are not committed to the interests of those sectors in our country must take up our own view on this issue that is certainly of national interest, basing ourselves on objectivity, justice and the interests of the Dominican people and nation.


There are many factors that have shaped the current reality of the relations between Dominicans and Haitians: the historical process of formation of the two national states, political and social factors of the past and present in both countries, and most importantly, the strategy of exploitation and domination of international capital on the island. For obvious reasons of time and space we cannot take into account all these processes, but we can highlight some elements relevant to this article.

The emergence of the national state of Haiti in an international context in which slavery predominated and the colonial power was still enthroned in the Eastern part of the island (Santo Domingo) left open the way for the hostility of the nascent nation-state project against the Eastern side. One must understand that the colonial power and the continuation of slavery in the Dominican Republic constituted a threat to the nascent Republic of Haiti, mainly led by newly freed slaves. These facts relate to the early 19th century, when the process of forming a nation in the eastern portion of the island was advanced, but it had not yet formally proclaimed a republic. Recall that between 1802 and 1809 the Spanish territory of Santo Domingo was occupied by France, which had been thrown out of the western side by the insurgent slaves.

The Haitian military incursions into Spanish Santo Domingo in the early nineteenth century left influences that deeply marked the population that would later call itself “Dominican” and especially marked the ruling elite. Later that heritage was reinforced by the domination of 1822-1844 and invasions that followed after independence and the proclamation of the Dominican Republic, leading to a state of war between the two nations which lasted until 1856. Additionally, it should be noted that these events were manipulated by a tendentious historiography that until recently monopolized academic discourse and the education of the new generations.

The Dominican state arose and was defined in confrontation with the Haitian State in 1844, and that fact together with the experience mentioned above would become a catalyst for an anti-Haitian ideology formed very early by the Dominican elites.

That anti-Haitianism, inherited from the historical process on the island during the 19th century, did not disappear with the collaboration between Haitian and Dominican patriots during the struggle against the annexation and for the Restoration of the Republic.

The anti-Haitianism was consolidated as state ideology starting with the Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961) and at this point it should be noted, as Roberto Cassa states, that “while in the last (19th) century anti-Haitianism had an essentially political basis, now it is the racial basis that is dominant” (Vetas, No. 23, Santo Domingo, September, 1996). That is what still prevails in the country today as a legacy of the ideology of Trujillo and its recreation with neo-Trujillism.

Accompanying this situation it should also recalled that in Haiti there has also existed an anti-Dominican prejudice throughout this period, which grew after the massacre of Haitians in the Dominican Republic in 1937 known as the “Cutting” and with the role played in Haitian public opinion by Haitian intellectuals about this unspeakable event.


During the recently passed 20th century there were economic and geopolitical factors that profoundly affected the view of Dominicans about Haitians. This is the strategy of economic exploitation and political domination applied by international capital for the island by means of the modern sugar industry, whose effects influenced the relations between the two peoples as negatively as the military conflicts of the past.

The crux of the problem is essential to correctly place the question of Haitian immigration in general and particularly the specific question of the rights of the children of Haitian immigrants born in Dominican territory.

The U.S. economic expansion in the period after World War I (1914-1918) and the stellar role played by the plantation economy then implemented by the imperialist powers as part of the system of neo-colonial exploitation, explains the U.S. intervention in Haiti (19151934) and in the Dominican Republic (1916-1924) and the economic model imposed.

This model that the specialists call enclave economy was characterized by the promotion of “economic growth confined to the few important urban centers of the peripheral societies ... which is financed by foreign investment (whose) benefits are repatriated” (Grasmuch, Sh. En: Eme- Eme, 60, 1982, p. 82).

The condition of backwardness in which agricultural production is maintained by this model and the pressure exercised by big landowners, creates a “high degree of urban migration, putting peasants and the rural proletariat in contact with the modern urban environment and with the modern aspirations of consumption.” However, the model does not create massive employment but, on the contrary, most of the population remains deprived of the means of subsistence. Therefore, a large number of workers are compelled to seek employment outside the national borders.

The logic of reproduction of this model assumes the availability of a cheap labor force because it is based on a modern industrial sector, while it maintains the agricultural sector in a condition of backwardness. As super-profits are assured with abundant land and a cheap labor force, the profitability is greater under this scheme than investing in modernizing the agricultural sector.

In this way the imperialist power, the Dominican State and local ruling classes are organizing by mutual agreement and stimulating the migratory flow of Haitian workers into Dominican territory, as they did at one time by importing a labor force from Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. The Haitian ruling class and U.S. imperialism itself did the same when they pushed that flow from Haiti to Cuba.

It is clear that, in the light of the creation of the massive emigration of Haitians and considering the role of that labor force in the logic of capital accumulation, the bases of the so-called Haitian problem have been created by the ruling sectors, who are perpetuating this situation for their exclusive benefit. Thus the basis of this problem goes beyond the scope of what is strictly legal and it would be more correct to speak of a Dominican-Haitian problem.


The image of the “Other” with respect to Haitians was formed in the collective consciousness of the Dominican people; although it was originally motivated in the armed conflicts of the past and in the fact of the separatist act of 1844, it later became a racial border continuously promoted until today. This situation has given rise to myths such as that “we Dominicans are not black” because “blacks are those who come from Haiti.”

A whole ideological discourse has been built up by the ruling elites who, in an unusual act, tried to hide and ignore the existence of black slavery in our territory during colonization in order to deny the consequent imprint of that heritage on the ethnic-cultural formation of the Dominican people.

That official discourse stimulated a political practice and a tradition of anti-Haitian racial prejudice among Dominicans and, in an attitude of a moral double standard, the supporters of this policy try to deny the presence of these racist values in Dominican society the more they are denounced.

Thus, the “Haitian bogeyman” is manipulated circumstantially when the ruling sectors urge this for their illegitimate ends. There are many examples of this in our contemporary history.

The racist ideological discourse structured around the issue of Haitian migration becomes a contributing factor in perpetuating the undocumented status of immigrant workers and their descendants. Consequently this factor acts as a guarantee of the fundamental requirement for the super-exploitation of this labor force: their undefined legal status. It is very clear if we recognize that an immigrant with defined legal status would have the possibility, even if it were minimal, of negotiating their status as a wage-worker.


Within this framework, how should one understand the situation of the children or descendants of these immigrant workers, the focal point of the current debate?

The first thing is not to lose sight of the general framework outlined above and to highlight the double standard of the ruling classes and the Dominican State: those who when considering the undocumented status of these workers, refuse to modify it and try to increase the specific weight of this population in the labor market; thus their presence began to transcend the sugar industry long before the collapse of the refineries.

The spokespersons of the State and the ruling classes speak about the “danger threatening the country” if the inherent rights of the Dominicans of Haitian origin were fully recognized as the law mandates; meanwhile it is the same ruling class and its State that maintain the conditions that give rise to the presence of this labor force on Dominican territory. It seems contradictory, but it really is not, because it is a matter of a double standard: we know that capital and the bourgeoisie linked to the imperialist powers have no country. Therefore none of them flinch before the colossal threat that the nation suffered when the neoliberal economic model was imposed that smashed the little that was left standing of the national productive apparatus. At the same time they handed over and continue to hand over the strategic resources of the country to the highest bidder, provided that their “payoff” is assured.

To indefinitely prolong the legal limbo of the Haitian immigrant workers and their descendants they invoke legal reasons, first with the old and now with the new Dominican Constitution: they argue that this population is supposedly in transit in the Dominican Republic.

This approach ignores the fact that these are immigrants with 30, 40 and more years residing continuously in the country or their descendants born on Dominican territory, often with a Dominican father or mother. It is also alleged that the Haitian Constitution recognizes as citizen of that country every child of a Haitian born abroad.

Notwithstanding this irrelevancy, there is a pertinent and viable outcome that expresses the right of Dominicans of Haitian origin in the framework of current legislation. Of course, this involves political decisions that are tied to the entire network of factors and processes analyzed throughout this article, but there is an answer in the current legal framework in the country at the time of the arrival of these immigrants. I will address this aspect below.


Before examining the strictly legal aspect of the matter, we should recall the need to place the problem in historical, political, economic and social terms, as a condition to place the analysis on an objective basis. Let us not forget that this is a subject that awakens the interest of a broad and diverse spectrum: politicians, journalists, academics, businessmen, religious people and national and international institutions; it is a really important issue for the country, but one that has in its passion a catalyst that does not help in a correct approach.

In the past, agreements were announced periodically between the two governments on the issue of repatriation, but in relation to the population of non-recent immigrants, the basis of the problem persists.

Why do I say that the descendants of Haitians born in the Dominican Republic have rights?

Although for the reasons already stated, a real solution to this problem can hardly be articulated from a one-sided view, whether legal or political, the fact is that from the strictly legal perspective and inside and outside the Dominican Republic there are no sustainably valid arguments to disregard the inalienable rights of Dominicans of Haitian origin.

To explain this criterion it would be convenient to differentiate in the analysis the case of Haitian immigrants from the case of their descendents born here, since certainly the situation of a foreigner who is an illegal immigrant who remains on the national territory for a long time in itself does not grant him rights beyond those that the legislation observes for such cases. In strictly legal terms it is beyond dispute; but it is not the same with the descendants of these immigrants, and this is the crux of the problem. It should be noted, however, that these non-recent immigrants were brought by the Dominican State itself under accords between the two governments and they were kept in illegal status by the authorities themselves who are now blaming the victim for their misfortune.

Actually, to agree on the status corresponding to the children of Haitians born on Dominican territory it is only necessary to apply the Dominican laws and especially the Constitution of the Republic in force at the time of the entry of such foreigners into the country. Not to complicate things, but as has been explained above, there are economic, political and ideological reasons that complicate this.

What does the Dominican Constitution say and what are the arguments for and against? This is the question of nationality: how does the Dominican Constitution understand this and what are the criteria defined for its application?

Dominicans are “All persons born in the territory of the Dominican Republic with the exception of the legitimate children of foreigners residing in the country on diplomatic representation or those who are in transit in it.” That exception relating to being in “transit” is, in the light of the Dominican Constitution then in force, the scheme put forward by those who oppose the recognition of the rights of the descendants of Haitians born in the country. But it turns out that the concept of “transit” mentioned in the Constitution does not admit interpretation, because it is defined clearly by law under the Migration Regulation No. 279 of May 12, 1939, which defines transients as “foreigners trying to enter the Republic with the main purpose of continuing through the country to a foreign destination, they are granted privileges of transients.” Obviously this is not the situation of the majority of Haitians (legal or not on Dominican territory), nor is it anywhere near the situation of their descendents born here.

If there were a political will to implement the law directly, the case of the Dominicans of Haitian descent would “die” there. But no, those who persist in maintaining that population in a form of “legal limbo” have powerful reasons: to use them as a reserve labor force differentiated from the rest of the population in their situation of access to the labor market, to assure their super-exploitation.

So when the arguments around the Dominican Constitution fall, they then appeal to the Haitian Constitution. Amazing! The newly minted “nationalists” want to apply the Haitian Constitution on Dominican territory (!?), clear evidence of their lack of arguments. Those who think this way rely on the fact that the Haitian Constitution of 1987 defines someone who “possesses Haitian nationality at birth, any person born of a Haitian father or mother, who themselves were born Haitian and have not renounced their nationality at the moment of the birth [of the child].”

The difference in the conceptualization of both constitutions is that, while in the Dominican Constitution before the last reform, the legal principle called “Jus Solis” prevails, which recognizes the nationality of the State in the territory where the person is born, whatever the nationality of their parents; in the Haitian Constitution the principle known as “Jus Sanguini” prevails, which recognizes the nationality of the parents or that of one of them if they are of different nationality.

The truth is that the children of a Haitian father, mother or both, born in the Dominican Republic are Dominicans not only in the light of the Dominican Constitution before the last reform, but furthermore it is their will to be integrated into Dominican society in its different facets, standing out as any other Dominican citizen who have managed to get past the legal obstacles, and there is the history of the social, political and economic life of the country to bear witness to it.

To try to ignore the rights of people who were born here and feel just like the descendants of immigrant groups coming from other areas, by invoking the application on Dominican territory of the Constitution of another country, is ridiculous and is only sustainable through the known prejudices against our neighbors in the western part of the island. Those same spokespersons for those positions know that in the light of international law, where there is a conflict of nationality only the State whose nationality is in question is competent to decide.

In the case of the descendants of Haitians considered illegal immigrants born in the country long before the proclamation of the new Dominican Constitution, not only is there no reason, but there are no valid legal arguments to deny them the right to Dominican nationality. For this population their legal status should be considered in the light of the Constitution of the Republic in force at the time of their birth, since to try to retroactively apply the new Constitution in such cases would invalidate the full right of this intention and at the same time lay bare its perfidious character.

The refusal to recognize the rights of these Dominicans is imposed only as a political measure of force and not a legal measure, which is explained by the whole historical, economic, social and ideological framework summarized in this article.

In sum one needs: 1) To distinguish the old migration from the recent one; 2) The Dominican Constitution from before the last reform is the one that applies in defining the status of descendants of the old immigration; 3) To distinguish their immigrant status from that of their children born in the Dominican Republic; 4) To distinguish the children of Haitian parents from those born of Dominican parents, because nobody questions that a citizen considered legally Dominican, may declare his child independent of the mother or father.

Everything explained above lets us see that those descendants are not Haitians... They are Dominicans!

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