On Monday, April 21, 2014, We Are All Dominican joined the groups Border of Lights and Dominicanos/as por Derecho NYC in denouncing recent remarks by U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel defending the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Tribunal and their decision TC 168-13, which stripped as many as 240,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship. We delivered the letter to Congressman Rangel’s office located in Harlem, and are awaiting a response.
This critique of Congressman Rangel’s recent statements in no way constitutes an endorsement of his likely opponent in an upcoming Democratic Primary Election for the 13th Congressional District, State Senator Adriano Espaillat. Like Rep. Rangel, State Senator Espaillat expressed early criticism of the decision TC 168-13, but then issued a tepid statement reducing criticisms and concerns about the court decision to “rumors” and “fears.” This mirrors Rep. Rangel’s trajectory on this issue, whose initial expressions of concern in a statement issued by the Congressional Black Caucus were followed by lukewarm statements that merely repeated the Dominican government’s talking points on the issue. In this respect we find no meaningful difference between the two candidates. We therefore emphasize that our letter to Rep. Charles Rangel is focused on his recent remarks and is in no way an expression of support for his electoral challenger.
The Honorable Charles Rangel
United States House of Representatives
163 West 125th Street
New York, NY 10027
Dear Representative Rangel:
As members of the Dominican-American and Haitian-American communities in New York City, we write to express our profound disappointment in your words and actions during a recent visit to the Dominican Republic. We were left utterly speechless by your expressed support for the Constitutional Tribunal and its decision TC 168-13, which strips the nationality of potentially hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent, effectively rendering them stateless.
Without the rights and protections afforded to individuals by their nationality, hundreds of thousands of Dominicans face severe exclusion from educational and basic life opportunities. They will not be able to enroll in school and university, legally purchase property, formally register the birth of their children, or even get married. They are now even more vulnerable to severe exploitation in the labor market, unlawful police raids, and violent deportations separating mothers from children (as the Director of Migration José Ricardo Tavares has threatened). You are no doubt aware that when a state denies basic rights and protections to an entire social group, it opens the door to widespread discrimination and violence against members of that group from other societal sectors. Without the protections of citizenship, the sine qua non of full formal political and social membership in a society, hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent have been made vulnerable to all sorts of human rights violations; and you have turned your back on them.
We are astonished that a high-ranking and prominent public official representing an important African-American constituency would defend an institution that has engaged in nothing short of judicial laundering of racism, as Julia Harrington-Reddy of the Open Society Foundations Justice Initiative has so aptly called it. As you are no doubt aware, some of the darkest episodes in the history of the United States, including Jim Crow laws, the racial terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan, and the lynching of countless young black men for no reason other than their race, were sanctioned by legislative and judicial institutions. These legal bodies undoubtedly thought that they, too, were simply interpreting the Constitution, which was your weak defense of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal’s unjust decision. Just as “separate but equal” was once considered lawful in the United States, the retroactive denationalization of four generations of Dominicans is today considered lawful in the Dominican Republic.
It is of grave concern that in 2014 you would seek to lend legitimacy to a court that has repeatedly ruled to strip the citizenship of hundreds of thousands of Dominicans for no other reason than the national origin and immigration status of their parents or, in many cases, grandparents and great-grandparents, in clear violation of the Dominican Republic’s own constitution and countless international human rights treaties signed by the Dominican government.
Your defense of the Constitutional Tribunal decision is not only a betrayal to the Dominicans, Latinos, African Americans, and other minority and immigrant groups in your Congressional district, it is a slap in the face to the Haitian-American community that once saw you as its ally. You have positioned yourself against many prominent international and national organizations and individuals that have declared their opposition to this court decision and related policies, including: the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, CARICOM, the City of Providence (RI), the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Open Society Foundations Justice Institute, the AFL-CIO, the National Bar Association, the Dominican Bar Association, the Association of Black Anthropologists, the authors Edwidge Danticat, Junot Diaz, and Julia Alvarez, and countless other religious, social, and cultural leaders and institutions.
These organizations and individuals, along with the Dominican-American and Haitian-American organizations that have actively mobilized against this decision in New York, Madrid, Miami, Montreal, and elsewhere, proudly fight against this grave injustice in the Dominican Republic. We are deeply appalled by your statement, made during your recent visit and reported in the newspaper El Caribe on April 14, that citizens of other nations should not criticize the decision that denationalized hundreds of thousands of people. We are concerned that the Congressman who so proudly declares on his website that he “sounded the death knell for apartheid in South Africa with the ‘Rangel Amendment,’ which forced the largest U.S. investors to abandon the country,” would today criticize those who seek to fight against such a blatant violations of basic human rights in the Dominican Republic.
We urge you to stand on the right side of history by publicly withdrawing your support for the court decision that stripped hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of their citizenship, and opening a dialogue with the Dominican-American and Haitian-American communities on how to protect this highly vulnerable population and end the historical exploitation and exclusion of our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic.
Border of Lights
Dominicanos/as por Derecho NYC
We Are All Dominican