La Sentencia

On September 23, 2013, as many people prepared to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the 1937 Massacre, the Dominican Constitutional Court reinstated a 1929 citizenship legislation that condemns ethnic Haitians to another form of obliteration. Ruling 168-13, better known as La Sentencia, dictates that all persons born to “illegal immigrants” or “persons in transit” since 1929 will not be entitled to Dominican citizenship and are, therefore, subject to deportation. The Dominican Government claimed La Sentencia was part of an “expansive immigration reform aimed at controlling undocumented immigration from Haiti which increased by about twenty percent since the 2010 earthquake.” But because it is retroactive to 1929, this “immigration reform” means that people like María Pierre, whose testimony opens this final section, become stateless, as neither Hispaniola nation acknowledge them as citizens. The ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal came in response to a lawsuit brought against the Dominican State by Juliana Deguis in 2008 after the Central Electoral Board refused to issue her cédula (state ID). Deguis, who was born in 1984, appealed the state decision for at the time of her birth, jus solis was applied to all except people in transit, a category that until 2000 pertained only to tourists or visitors who stayed in the territory for no more than ten days. In 2000, legislation changed Haitian laborers’ legal status to “persons in transit,” which made them ineligible to register their Dominican-born children. In 2004, the constitutional designation of “in transit” was once again redefined to include all persons without legal residency. La Sentencia was the climax of two decades of legal actions aimed at disenfranchising ethnic Haitians and divesting them of civic liberties and citizenship rights.