Press Release

IACHR Calls on the Dominican Republic to Meet its Obligations regarding the Right to Nationality and Due Process in Immigration

August 27, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - In view of the resumption of deportations of immigrants with irregular status by authorities in the Dominican Republic, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the Dominican State to adopt any measures that may be necessary to ensure that individuals who had the right to Dominican nationality and were arbitrarily and retroactively deprived of their nationality under Constitutional Court Judgment TC/168/13 are guaranteed the right to live in Dominican territory and are protected from expulsion. Moreover, the Inter-American Commission urges the State to guarantee that any deportation proceedings involving immigrants with irregular status are carried out in accordance with the State’s human rights obligations, specifically in accordance with due process guarantees, and to avoid engaging in collective expulsions.

In response to the effects of Judgment TC/168/13, the executive branch promoted the adoption of two normative frameworks geared toward different population groups: the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners with Irregular Migration Status and Law 169-14. With regard to the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners with Irregular Migration Status, whose registration period expired on June 17, 2015, the IACHR welcomes the steps taken by the Dominican State to regularize the immigration status of foreigners in the Dominican Republic. Under this plan, 288,486 people signed up to regularize their status. The IACHR hopes that these individuals will obtain a regular status, along with verifying documents, as soon as possible.

The Commission observes that the Dominican State is still in the process of implementing the provisions of the normative frameworks mentioned above. That includes giving identity documents to individuals who have had their Dominican nationality restored under the provisions of Law 169-14, as well as regularizing the immigration status of and providing verifying documents to those who registered and complied with the requirements established under the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners with Irregular Migration Status. The fact that the Dominican State has resumed deportations while the mechanisms related to nationality and regularization of immigration status have yet to be fully implemented means that various groups of people are at risk of being expelled from the Dominican Republic.

According to data provided by the Directorate General of Migration, 36,593 Haitians returned to Haiti between June 18 and July 6, 2015, under the “Assisted Voluntary Return Program.” Multiple sources indicated that many of these individuals had done so out of fear or concern about their uncertain legal situation. The Commission is concerned that among those who returned to Haiti, there could be individuals with legitimate claims to remain in Dominican territory.

The Commission welcomes the public statements made by President Danilo Medina, who said that any deportations will be carried out with complete respect for human rights, and by Foreign Minister Andrés Navarro, who stated that the government “will not deport a single Dominican” and that it will grant all guarantees of respect for human rights at the time of applying the Migration Act and repatriating to their countries of origin all those who have not availed themselves of the National Regularization Plan.

In terms of people who have the right to Dominican nationality and who were arbitrarily and retroactively deprived of their nationality under Constitutional Court Judgment TC/168/13, the Commission urges the Dominican State to adopt any measures that may be necessary to guarantee the right these individuals have to reside in Dominican territory and to be protected from being expelled.

While the Commission recognizes that States have the right to control their borders, to define the requirements for entering and staying and for expelling foreigners from their territory, and in general to establish their immigration policies, the exercise of this prerogative imposes an obligation on the States to ensure that any policies, laws, and practices they implement respect and guarantee the human rights of all immigrants and their families.

In accordance with its international human rights obligations, the Dominican State should adopt any measures that may be necessary to ensure that racial profiling is not applied in the context of immigration raids and that identity documents are not confiscated or destroyed based on discriminatory criteria. The IACHR reiterates that, in keeping with international norms and standards, immigrants subject to proceedings that may lead to deportation must be afforded minimum guarantees. These include: (i) the right to be heard by the relevant authority in the context of the deportation proceeding and to have sufficient opportunity to exercise their right to a defense; (ii) the right to interpretation and translation; (iii) the right to have legal representation; (iv) the right to consular protection from the moment of detention; (v) the right to receive notification of a deportation order; (vi) access to an effective remedy to appeal a deportation decision; (vii) the right to appeal a deportation decision; and (viii) the right to suspension of deportation while the matter is under appeal.

The Commission calls to mind that the State has the obligation to analyze, establish a basis for, and decide individually on each expulsion or deportation that is carried out. At the same time, the Commission reiterates that collective expulsions are manifestly contrary to international law. Moreover, given the possibility that parents or relatives of people who are entitled to Dominican nationality may be deported, the IACHR believes that any proceedings that could result in the deportation of these individuals must take into consideration the best interests of the immigrants’ children and the potential deportee’s right to a family life, in keeping with human rights norms and standards.

The Commission also notes that the Dominican Republic and Haiti signed a “Protocol of Understanding on Repatriation Mechanisms” in 1999. The Commission calls for the commitments made by both States under this accord to be respected. The Commission further urges both States to undertake a dialogue with a view to improving the content and guarantees of this Protocol, so as to ensure that the human rights of those who are repatriated are guaranteed.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 097/15