The Dominican Republic denies thousands of children access to education due to nationality laws rendering them stateless. The educational challenges of the Dominican stateless, many of them of Haitian descent, are both varied and continuous.
Since the 1990s, many Dominicans of Haitian descent have encountered difficulties proving their citizenship. A court ruling in 2013 exacerbated these struggles by retroactively declaring immigrants and their descendants to be noncitizens from 1929 forward. This left generations of Dominican people unable to receive healthcare, education or employment, most of which requires proof of citizenship.
A report from the Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute gathered information about the educational challenges of the Dominican stateless through interviews and analysis of the Dominican Republic’s education policies. According to the report, schools refuse to enroll students or administer state examinations without birth certificates or proof of nationality. Bureaucratic hurdles and arbitrary enforcement of the nationality law stall the efforts to remedy this.
A consequence of the Dominican stateless’ inability to attain an education is a lack of high-quality jobs. The Guardian discusses how many migrant descendants work in menial jobs like domestic work by force. Employers also often subject them to abuse or long hours due to the lack of legal protections.
The educational challenges of the Dominican stateless especially affect the young people. Yolanda Alcino, a young Dominican descended from Haitian migrants, told The Guardian how she and other Dominican stateless are “discriminated against, and without education, without work, life is more difficult in almost every way.”
In response to this issue, Dominican stateless have protested for their rights. Young people have met with government officials and developed petitions that implore the government to uphold equal rights.
International governments and organizations have also condemned the Dominican Republic for its actions and inaction. As reported in Refugees Deeply, although the country has adopted the New York Declaration, it has not honored the Declaration’s requirement of providing education to all youth.
The domestic and international response to the educational challenges of the Dominican stateless has helped influence the Dominican Republic to modify nationality laws. According to Refugees Deeply, the country will acknowledge the children of undocumented immigrants as citizens if they have a verified birth certificate or go through the process of naturalization.
Despite this, the processes have the same problems: they require too much time and are arbitrarily applied. With the legal, vocational, economic and educational challenges of the Dominican stateless, the Dominican Republic has a lot to remedy.
– Cortney Rowe