New York, NY – Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization, issued the following statement in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama:
While 35 heads of state gather at this week’s Summit of the Americas, the fate of more than 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent hangs in the balance. A 2013 Dominican Constitutional Court decision retroactively stripped these men, women, and children of their right to a nationality. Unless Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina acts, they could be driven from their homes and expelled from their homeland later this year.
Thus far, the Medina government response to the human rights violations associated with the court decision has been inadequate. Last May, the country widely approved a naturalization law to restore citizenship to some and established a path to citizenship for others affected by the ruling—but few people have been able to register for this process due to its ineffectiveness. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Dominicans are already or will be stateless at the end of the registration period in June and will face possible expulsion.
As Jews, we know too well the experience of being rendered stateless.
We call on President Obama to voice the American people’s concerns about the discrimination against Dominicans of Haitian descent and urge President Medina to restore their rights. We cannot stand idly by to witness this appalling affront on an entire population’s human rights.
Unless Dominicans of Haitian descent can be guaranteed equal protection and the right to nationality and identity, the theme of this year’s summit, ‘Prosperity with Equity,’ will ring hollow.
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David L. Marcus