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Cardinal O’Malley Denounces Dominican Republic Immigration Ruling

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“It is the destiny of the Dominican and Haitian peoples to share an island,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a letter last month to the Dominican ambassador to the United States.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston is lamenting a court ruling in the Dominican Republic that retroactively strips away citizenship from any person born after 1929 to parents without Dominican ancestry.

“It is the destiny of the Dominican and Haitian peoples to share an island,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a letter last month to the Dominican ambassador to the United States, Anibal de Castro. “Events of history have left their scars, but I believe that Dominicans and Haitians of goodwill long for a future of greater solidarity and friendship.”

“Please communicate to your government the concerns and disappointment of a priest who considers himself a friend to the people of the Dominican Republic,” the cardinal said.

His letter came in response to the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court ruling that the children of undocumented immigrants who were born in the country beginning in 1929 and who are registered as Dominican citizens will lose their status because their parents were “in transit” in the country.  

The court’s decision could affect some 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent, including many who have had no ties with Haiti for generations.

A delegation from the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic will meet on Jan. 7 to discuss the issue of immigration, after negotiations between the two countries mediated by Venezuela broke off last November. Representatives from Venezuela, the United Nations, the European Union and the Caribbean Community will attend the talks as observers.

In his letter, Cardinal O’Malley recalled his work with the Hispanic community in Washington, D.C., which began more than 40 years ago.

“I worked with the Dominican community in Washington D.C. for 20 years, then for 10 years in the West Indies, and now in Massachusetts,” he said. “President Joaquin Balaguer honored me with the decoration, the Order of Cristobal Colon, for my pastoral work with Dominicans. I have always had a great affection for the Dominican Republic and their people.”

“It is in the same spirit,” the cardinal continued, “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 who live in the Dominican Republic, many of whom have been born in your country. Indeed, their hard work and dedication contribute much to the wellbeing of the country.”

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