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Merrimack Valley

January 19, 2014

Cardinal O'Malley urges Dominicans to change citizenship policy

Decree seen as unfair to Haitians born in Dominican Republic

LAWRENCE — As Dominican and Haitian officials meet to discuss the recent court ruling that would revoke the citizenship of Haitians born in the Dominican Republic, local residents are hopeful the talks will yield a peaceful result.

“I was surprised about the decree and wondered what made them decide this,” said the Rev. Jean Joseph, pastor of the Church of God in Lawrence. “ They know the people and whatever goes on in Haiti affect them.”

“This is a difficult situation because it shows a lack of respect for human beings and is a bad example for the world,” Joseph said. “I understand they are two different countries and governments, but is still one island and why can’t we sit down and live as brother and sisters?”

In September, the Dominican Constitutional court ruled that people born in the country after 1929 to Haitians living illegally are not automatically citizens. The decree cannot be appealed leaving it up to Dominican and Haitian officials to find ways to annul the decision which will affect an estimated 200,000 people.

The United Nations, Caribbean leaders and human rights groups have condemned the ruling. The issue has caught the attention of Massachusetts religious leaders and politicians.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley head of the Archdiocese of Boston wrote a letter last month to Cardinal Aníbal de Castro Rodríguez in the Dominican Republic noting the affection he has for the country and its people.

“It is in the same spirit that I turn to you today to share my sadness at the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling that creates such hardship for so many people of Haitian extraction,” O’Malley wrote.

“Every country has the right to control its own boundaries, but no one has the right to trample people’s dignity and diminish their humanity,” O’Malley continued.

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