On the campaign trail, President Trump said that he wanted to revoke birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, often referring to them as “anchor babies.” Today, Latino USA looks at the story of a country where that actually happened: the Dominican Republic.
Since 1865, the Dominican Republic offered birthright citizenship to those born in the country. Then in 2013, a constitutional court made a decision that the children of immigrants —mostly from neighboring Haiti— with improper or missing paperwork were to be considered “in transit” and therefore not eligible for Dominican citizenship. With a stroke of a pen, Dominicans of Haitian descent suddenly found that they were no longer Dominicans at all.
International organizations like Amnesty International accused the Dominican Republic of breaking international law by stripping nationality from the children of immigrants and potentially rendering them stateless. So in 2014, the Dominican government passed a new law geared towards restoring nationality to those born in the Dominican Republic—with some big caveats.
Antonio Charles, a young guitar player with dreams of studying in the United States one day, was one of thousands of people caught in the middle of the drama. He was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents who worked on a sugar cane plantation. He had dreams to study music, and hustled from a young age to pay for his schooling. But after the 2013 Dominican court decision, he found himself on a quest to get documented in the country where he was born.
Latino USA follows that journey.
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Featured image of Antonio Charles by Tatiana Fernandez Geara.