Eric Schwartz outlines an actionable advocacy campaign that civil society can undertake to move forward on the issue of statelessness in the context of an administration that is unlikely to make progress on the issue and in fact risks exacerbating statelessness in the United States.
The Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti share many things—a background of slavery, oppression, dictators, and the island of Hispaniola. Yet, in the DR, a history of racism and prejudice runs deep toward their Haitian neighbors who were often recruited for undesirable work in the DR’s sugarcane fields. In 1932, the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo massacred over 10,000 Haitian sugarcane workers in an attempt to ‘whiten’ the country. Still, Dominicans of Haitian descent have long roots in the DR, and contribute to the economy and society alongside their fellow citizens. But because registration and certification of births were often done on an arbitrary basis, proof of birth in the country has been difficult to verify.
Without official proof of a Syrian father, exiled Syrian children are at a heightened risk of statelessness, which could make their ability to access education, health care and social services less likely, and could prove a barrier to returning and taking up Syrian citizenship, if and when the possibility arises.
Imagine that your own birth was never officially recorded. Your family members and friends would know you, and know that you exist. You might receive services from local organizations, like the church or the fire department. But what would happen when it’s time to enroll in school, get a job, or apply for a driver’s license? Now imagine all of this is happening to you in a foreign country. You fled your home because of war. But when it’s time to return home with the rest of your family, how could you prove that you belong there? How could you convince anyone that you, too, had rights in the country that you consider home?