The Center for Human Rights and International Justice held a screening of the documentary Stateless on Tuesday, October 20th. Stateless follows families affected by the 2013 policy that denaturalized Haitians in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court confiscated the citizenship of anyone living in the country with Haitian parents, dating back to 1929. The ruling left more than 200,000 people “stateless”, without national identity or homeland.
Before the screening of the film, Brinton Lykes and Daniel Kanstroom gave a welcome to Franciscka Lucien, Executive Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.
Lucien reminded the audience that much of the recent influx of Haitian migrants at the U.S border is the result of broader policy context and other drivers which force Haitians out of Haiti and into to the Dominican Republic, other countries within the Caribbean, and the United States.
After this introduction, the documentary began. Stateless shows the stories of those affected by the 2013 legislation, exposing the intricate history and current politics of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through the electoral campaign of Rosa Iris.
Attorney Rosa Iris created a grassroots campaign, challenging the corruption of elections and advocating for social justice. In a world where extremist ideologies are becoming more prevalent, Stateless depicts what can happen in society when racism dominates the government.
After the screening, Kanstroom noted how “citizenship status, denationalization, and deportation fit so seamlessly with racism, xenophobia, and class” and easily lead violence.
He also stated that some of the cases discussed in the documentary went to The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, to which Lucien replied that several other groups have been addressing these matters, including the IDDH and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights. Lucien noted how we are still waiting to see the final outcome of the petition of denaturalization and its eventual implementation in the Dominican Republic.
“This number continues to grow” Lucien stated. Many of the individuals who were denaturalized continue to live along bordered communities and their children are born stateless as well. This issue is not limited to a moment in time, rather, it is a living and growing problem.
A question-answer forum succeeded their conversation, in which Lykes and Kanstroom gave participants a chance to join the conversation.
One zoom participant questioned if the Trump era contributed to the kind of right-wing organizing that was portrayed in the film or that seems to exist in the Dominican Republic.
Lucien replied: “a lot of what happened in the Dominican Republic preceded the Trump administration, but since Trump’s time in office there has been a rise in the nationalist movement, nationalism within Latin and South America but also globally.” Lucien summarized that the Trump administration is part of a broader shift in the regional and global context.
Another question raised by a participant was: “How do you see the relationship between poverty, racism, and nationalism?”
Lucien replied that “along with the rising of inequality, you see a protection of stance that lends itself to nationalism that results in an unfortunate ‘otherizing’ - wanting to protect what is available to immediate communities, what’s available within the national community and prioritizing national production, but it seems to track alongside growing gaps of equality.”
The final question of the night was about the possibility of student involvement in the work that is being done to support the Haitian community.
Lucien stated that college students can be involved through an internship program with IJDH as well as volunteer opportunities. Lucien voiced that another important way to get involved is to engage with the material, do research, understand the issue, and educate others.