SANTO DOMINGO – The government of the Dominican Republic on Thursday sent a bill to Congress that would extend legal residence to the Dominican-born children of undocumented migrants.
The initiative, which will mostly benefit the children of migrants from neighboring Haiti, will allow a “fair solution” to be applied to what has been “a cycle of irregularities,” President Danilo Medina’s administration said in a statement.
The country’s Constitutional Court ruled last September that the children of undocumented foreigners are not Dominicans, a decision that was rejected by a large part of the international community and divided public opinion inside the Dominican Republic.
The lower house is scheduled to send the measure to a committee for study before it is made known in the full body, which must give it the green light before it can be forwarded to the Senate.
The bill is designed to respond to the promise to find a “humanitarian, measured and responsible” solution to the dilemma surrounding people born in the Dominican Republic whose parents are of foreign origin and are in the country illegally, said the Medina administration.
The aim was always to find a solution that would fulfill two basic objectives: on the one hand “safeguarding the national interests and strict compliance with the Republic’s legal (regime) and, in particular, the rulings of the Constitutional Court.”
And, on the other hand, it was designed to guarantee the basic rights of all people residing in Dominican territory, especially those who were born and have grown up within the country.
Dominican officials estimate that around 1 million Haitians live in the country, most of them illegal immigrants who work in agriculture and construction.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti in the western portion.
Though both countries are poor, Haiti is destitute, and Haitians cross the border to do work that many Dominicans will not do, such as harvesting sugar cane.
Haitians have been the target of mob violence numerous times in recent years and the Dominican government has been widely criticized for its treatment of the migrants.
Thousands of Haitians fled to the Dominican Republic after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people on Jan. 12, 2010, and displaced more than 1 million others.