Lawmakers in the Dominican Republic have passed a bill aimed at resolving the legal status of thousands of individuals who were stripped of their citizenship by a September 2013 ruling, but the measure could still leave thousands essentially stateless.
In an emergency session yesterday, Domincan senators voted unanimoutsly to support the long-awaited bill, which was submitted earlier this month by President Danilo Medina. The move will re-establish citizenship rights for children born in the country to foreign parents in the past, provided they are on the government's civil registry and have legal identification.
As El Listin Diario reports, lawmakers cited international pressure as a primary reason for the bill's passage. Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez, noting that even Pope Francis had raised concerns about the citizenship ruling during a meeting with a Dominican delegation to the Vatican, expressed hope that the new law would end "international commentary" on the issue.
But the measure has earned a mixed reaction from human rights advocates in the country and abroad. The Denationalized Peoples Solidarity Committee, a coalition of civil society groups and individuals opposed to the September ruling, referred to the bill as a "victory" in a statement released following its presentation to Congress. But at the same time the committee expressed concern that citizenship would still be denied to those who are not registered or lack documentation. These criticisms have been echoed by the UN Refugee Agency as well.
As Reuters explains, the law will have a varying impact on those affected by the ruling:
The legislation would create different categories. Those born between 1929 and 1997 with proper documentation will be granted full citizenship; those born between 1997 and 2010 will need to apply for citizenship; and those born 2010 or later, or those who have no legal documents, will be given the opportunity to apply for naturalization after 10 years.
The requirement for documentation is problematic. A recent study (.pdf) of some 350 households in the country (both immigrant and non-immigrant) by the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) found that 30 percent of those polled lacked necessary documentation to prove their citizenship. This means that many may be required to register as foreigners in the very country they were born in, which the editorial board of digital newspaper Acento calls a paradox that "will have to be resolved in the future."
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