Thursday, December 25, 2008

Birth, not ancestry, relevant to citizenship by Sonia Pierre

Photo borrowed from Robert F. Kennedy Memorial website page onSonia Pierre. Go here: for speeches by Sonia Pierre, press releases, biography, and the RFK Human Rights Award 2006 awarded to Sonia Pierre


Birth, not ancestry, relevant to citizenship

from Miami Herald, Opinion

SANTO DOMINGO -- I am a native-born citizen of the Dominican Republic. I grew up, went to school, started a family and raised my children on Dominican soil. This is the only place I have ever called home. Yet, after more than 45 years in this country, my nationality -- along with that of thousands of other Dominicans -- is being called into question.

Like many Dominicans, I am of Haitian ancestry. My family came to the Dominican Republic from neighboring Haiti to find work. Their journey was not uncommon, nor was it discouraged. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians came to work in this country with the express permission of the Dominican government.

But Dominicans like me have always paid a price for our ancestry.

For more than a century, the government has promoted a policy of state-sponsored racial discrimination. We have been used as scapegoats to shift the focus away from the country's economic and political problems.

Even so, one lesson I learned growing up was that any person born in the Dominican Republic is a Dominican citizen. This no one questioned. This no one doubted. The Dominican Republic's constitution says explicitly that anyone born on the country's territory, except infants born to parents who happen to be diplomats or foreigners ''in transit'' -- understood for decades to mean in the country for fewer than 10 days -- is a Dominican citizen. Because of this, I never worried that my status as a citizen would ever be in doubt. I was wrong.