Stripped of Citizenship: The Dominican Republic’s Deportation of Haitian Descendants

By: Brittany Jones

Current Crisis for Haitian Descendants

The Dominican government has systematically stripped thousands of Haitian descendants from the Dominican Republic of their citizenship and immigration status.[1] Citizens and lawful residents have experienced mass deportation because of one immutable characteristic—their ancestry.[2] In 2013, the highest court in the Dominican Republic ruled that if Dominican citizens were born to parents who entered the country illegally, then those citizens did not have a proper—“regular”— immigration status.[3] Until 2010, the Constitution of the Dominican Republic recognized anyone born in the Dominican Republic as a citizen of the country.[4] Today, a child’s nationality is determined by their parent’s immigration status and not whether the child was born in the Dominican Republic.[5] More specifically, the court declared that Dominicans who had foreign ancestry and were born between 1929 and 2010 were not true Dominican nationals.[6] As a result, the government implemented a regularization plan to deport those who did not meet the standards as outlined within the court ruling.[7] This regularization plan has disproportionately and purposely left Haitian descendants stateless in their home country.[8]


Island History

It is important to acknowledge the complex history that the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti in order to understand the current sentiments of the nations. First, the two countries are located on the island of Hispaniola—Haiti to the west and the Dominican Republic to the east.[9] Both the Spanish and the French occupied the island after 1492.[10] However, the French and Spanish colonies established a treaty that split the island in half.[11] The French occupied Saint-Domingue in present-day Haiti while the Spanish colony occupied San Domingo in present-day Dominican Republic.[12] Hispaniola was an integral part of the African slave trade.[13] The Haitian Revolution in 1791 spurred Haiti’s independence from the French in 1804.[14] The Dominican Republic gained its independence from Spain twice—in 1821 and 1865.[15] However, before its second independence from Spain, the Dominican Republic was ruled by Haiti until 1844.[16] The Dominican Republic recognizes its official independence day from Haiti and not from Spain.[17] In 1937, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo called for the execution of all people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic.[18] The executions lasted nearly a week and is known as the Parsley Massacre because Haitian descendants could be identified by their pronunciation of perejil which is Spanish for Parsley.[19] Nearly 20,000 Haitian descendants were murdered in the Parsley Massacre.[20] Decades of fear, racism, distrust, xenophobia, and economic disenfranchisement have followed the bloody history between the two countries.[21]


Deportation Legislation & Strategy

In 2015, the Dominican government decided to “regularize” the status of immigrants in the Dominican Republic.[22] An irregular status is given to those people who fall outside of the guidelines set forth in the regularization plan and the court.[23] The official title of the legislation at issue is the “National Regularization Plan for Foreigners” and was orchestrated by President Danilo Medina.[24] The regularization process targets people of Haitian descent because of the island’s history of constant migration between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.[25]  The Dominican government promoted the legislation as an opportunity to reform its immigration system and to erase statelessness within the country.[26] The government also claimed that “[n]o person born in the Dominican Republic will be expelled from our territory.”[27] However, the government’s plan claim did not hold true as thousands of Dominican born people were rendered stateless because their parents’ immigration status did not meet the new citizenship guidelines.[28] Since the implementation of the regularization plan, more than 200,000 people of Haitian descent have been deported or have fled to Haiti where they do not have citizenship.[29] Vigilantes within the Dominican Republic who supported the new immigration measures have also been violent toward Haitian descendants which forced many to flee the Dominican Republic.[30] 


The Future

Today, the Dominican government vehemently denies that its actions stripped people of their Dominican nationality and that there are thousands of stateless people in the country.[31] The first step in the healing of human rights abuses often requires unwavering acknowledgement or a public apology from the perpetrators of the abuse.[32] Finding a common ground between the Haitian and Dominican cultures will require patient leadership, allyship, dialogue, retribution, and a lot of time.[33]





[1] Amnesty International, (last visited Jan. 6, 2018).

[2] Human Rights Watch, (last visited Jan. 6, 2018).

[3] Mariano Castillo, Some Dominicans suddenly outsiders in their own country, CNN (Oct. 24, 2013, 2:15 PM),

[4]Mariano Castillo, Faces of a divided island How centuries of racism and fear shaped the people of two nations—and echo through a modern-day crisis, CNN (Apr. 13, 2016, 3:22 PM),

[5] Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York, Inc., Dominican Republic Constitutional Court Ruling TC/0168/13 English Translation (2014) 7,

[6] Id.

[7] Amnesty International, (last visited Jan. 6, 2018).

[8] Id.

[9] Haitian History New Perspectives 13 (Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall ed. 2013).

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440-1870 100-05 (1997).

[14] Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution 3 (2004).

[15] The Dominican Republic Reader: History, Culture, Politics 8 (Eric Paul Roorda et al. eds., 2014).

[16] Id.

[17] Castillo, supra note 4.  

[18] Marlon Bishop and Tatiana Fernandez, 80 Years On, Dominicans And Haitians Revisit Painful Memories Of Parsley Massacre, NPR (Oct. 7, 2017 8:20 AM),

[19] Id.

[20] Dominican Republic profile—timeline, BBC (Jul. 13, 2017),

[21]Mariano Castillo, Dominicans of Haitian descent tired of bias at the ballot box, CNN (Apr. 9, 2016, 6:01 AM),

[22] Michele Wucker, The Dominican Republic’s Shameful Deportation Legacy, Foreign Policy (Oct. 8, 2015, 10:03 AM),

[23] Id.

[24] Global Forum on Migration and Development, (last visited Jan. 5, 2018).

[25] Wucker, supra note 22.  

[26] Embassy of the Dominican Republic in the United States, (last visited Jan. 5, 2018).

[27] Id.  

[28]Amnesty International, (last visited Jan. 6, 2018).

[29] Id.

[30] Human Rights Watch, (last visited Jan. 7, 2018).

[31] Castillo, supra note 21.

[32] See Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness 255 (1999).

[33] Id.