SUMIT OF HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT OF SICA.
Guatemala, June 26, 2015
His Excellence Otto Perez Molina, President of the Republic of Guatemala and Pro Tempore President of SICA;
Excellences Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the Central American Integration System;
Honorable Ministers of Foreign Affairs;
Honorable members of the different delegations that accompany us;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Before I commence please allow me to express thanks to the people of Guatemala for welcoming us once again to this beautiful country. Thank you especially to your President Otto Fernando Perez Molina.
When we visited this country just a few months ago, to participate in the summit between SICA and Spain, we congratulated you for your performance in a Pro Tempore Presidency that has been specially active and dynamic.
On this occasion, I take the opportunity to publicly congratulate you again. It is also our wish that the next 6 months of the Pro Tempore Presidency of El Salvador, are underscored by a similar drive forward of our integration agenda. Let there be no doubt in your minds, that in the coming years, we will need that same dynamism to face the challenges presented to us by trade integration, citizen security, and migration movement.
Today, I would like to refer to that topic precisely. Migrations and the reaction of our Governments. In other words, our policies on migration and documentation and, specifically, what we in the Dominican Republic have recently achieved on this issue.
I would like to begin by reminding everyone that, just like the rest of the Member States of SICA, the Dominican Republic has been, for decades, a country of origin for migrations. And continues to be so today, to a certain extent.
Hundreds of thousands of Dominican men and women live in the United States and Europe, many keeping and maintaining their families back in the DR by sending hard earned remittances. This is an experience common to millions of Central American brothers and sisters.
This is why all of us present in this summit followed with great attention the executive action taken by President Obama to fix his immigration system, the one that he defined as a ¨broken system¨. This action is currently in a limbo, given the resistance presented by the republican opposition. But if they finally manage to fix that broken system, and we hope that may be the case, hundreds of thousands of our Central American and Caribbean countrymen and countrywomen may work and live in our northern neighbor with security and enhanced rights. Obviously, if documentation of migrants presents a challenge to the United States of America, it would only be logical to deduct that it presents an even greater challenge to us.
In the case of the Dominican Republic, we also inherited a system that has kept us for decades under a situation of administrative exposure and weakness. A situation keeping large groups of our population, citizens and migrants, in an undocumented and vulnerable state.
To end this situation, we decided to take the initiative of providing all persons living in our territory, with documentation according to their status. Be them Dominican or foreign, in a regular or irregular migration situation.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Two were the fundamental principles that guided this initiative: strict compliance with the laws of the Dominican Republic and protection of human rights for all persons.
And two were also the legal mechanisms that we created: Special Law 169-14 and the National Regularization Plan.
Special Law 169-14 establishes two large groups of personas that have been called Group A and Group B, according to the documental status of each person.
Group A corresponds to persons born in the Dominican Republic, children of two foreign parents under irregular situation, and who bear any type of document issued by our State accrediting them as Dominican citizens.
Thanks to this Law, 55,000 persons under this situation have seen their documentation recognized by the Central Board of Elections and the Civil Registry, thus certifying their Dominican citizenship.
Group B is made up by persons with foreign parents under an irregular migrant condition, born in the Dominican Republic, but who do not have any documentation or registration. The 8,755 persons who, in virtue of the Law requested their registration in the Book of Foreigners, may access the naturalization process in a period of 2 years.
Regarding the National Regularization Plan, this special initiative sought to correct the cases of migrants who were in our country in an irregular situation.
At the closing of the term provided by the plan, 288,486 persons requested their regularization by attending one of the 24 registration centers that we opened nationwide and are today in the process of receiving the status to which they are entitled.
It might be worth our while to underscore that, during the period of enforcement of the Plan, lasting 18 months, all repatriations were suspended. And that a communication and information campaign was launched to make these initiatives known to all possible beneficiaries, in addition to all the support and guidance offered at the community level.
Likewise, in order to facilitate access to those interested, the Dominican Government incorporated and involved institutions and organizations that have more experience in these matters: the UNHCR, the International Migrations Organization, the European Union, the UNDP and the National Migrations Table, amongst others.
As you most likely know, during recent months, some international mass communication media and some organizations, have repeatedly insisted in the theory that more than 200,000 persons have been left in a situation of statelessness and are in danger of been thrown out of the Dominican Republic.
This is completely false. And since we don´t even want to consider the possibility that it may be an intentional lie, but that it is a simple mistake, lets proceed to examine for a moment what gives origin the an error in these calculations, and what is the reality.
Those who originally presented these figures, base their believes in data from the National Migrant Survey of the year 2012, elaborated by the National Office of Statistics, with collaboration from the United Nations Organization.
According to this survey, we had at the moment 244 thousand 152 persons who were the children of foreign parents. Of this information, however, nothing can be deducted regarding the document or migration status for these persons, and even less so about their situation of statelessness.
It so happens that of this total estimate of 244,152, as many as 105 thousand 381 have at least one Dominican parent; therefore, they already have Dominican citizenship in full right under our Constitution. In other words, we all know that they are not stateless.
The remaining 138 thousand 770 are children of 2 foreign parents, but that does not make them stateless either.
To begin, of this group, 20 thousand 213 have declared bearing one foreign identity document, and 16 thousand 556 have declared to be the bearers of one foreign document and one Dominican Republic issued document.
We can therefore certify with certainty, that these 36,769 persons have their nationality issue resolved and, some of them, resolved twice with dual nationality.
The figures of potential “stateless” persons then has been reduced to 100,000 persons approximately.
Nevertheless, amongst these we have the 55,000 persons that registered under Group A and their descendants, and the 8,775 of Group B that, as I already explained previously, have already seen their citizenship recognized by the Central Board of Elections.
That is the case, for example, of Mrs. Juliana Deguis and her four children, who had not being registered yet because of the situation of no documentation affecting their mother, but now they are registered.
It is therefore easy to deduct that the remaining, above mentioned, 100,000, according to the survey, are precisely part of this population and their situation has consequently been resolved. In other words, they are not in a situation of statelessness and are not in danger of being thrown out of the country.
Definitively, let´s be very clear: In the Dominican Republic the number of cases of stateless persons is zero.
That is the reality, and may be verified by United Nations organizations that specialize in these matters and have presence in our country.
Of course, as any other State, we are not infallible and can make mistakes. If that were to occur and anybody presents one single case of properly documented statelessness to our Government, have no doubt that it will be resolved.
Our legal framework has the mechanisms to make this happen. But to this date, no cases of statelessness have been presented by anyone, and we have not made it possible to have a State policy promoting statelessness, as some have dared to insinuate.
Therefore, and I would like to be very emphatic with this, we will not allow this talk about our country to continue with impunity and without direct action from us.
I understand that this is a complex reality, with different legal entities, different population groups and several types of figures.
It might be a reality of less liking by the media, since it does not promote great alarmist headlines, nor is it useful to support a prefabricated narrative about the persecutors against the persecuted.
It is a reality that demands analysis, research, rigor and honesty. And these are precisely the virtues that we take for granted when thinking about the professional ethics of journalism. We therefore hereby invite the international media to make use of these virtues in the case of the Dominican Republic.
June 17 was the end of the registration period provided by the National Regularization Plan. And at the closing of the plan, in spite of what many have announced and expected, a human catastrophe did not occur, and no witch hunt was launched.
It is quite simple. The only thing that occurred was that, at the closing of the special regularization plan, our normal habitual migration legislation entered into force again. Nothing more, nothing less.
But beyond all these speculations, I believe that after such a collective effort like this one, it is important to establish a fair balance of what has been accomplished. We cannot allow the debate to stay in the hands of the most extremists sectors. Because there are indeed organizations and mass media that seem to want to magically weave in the Dominican Republic of today, the means of other times and other latitudes. They claim to speak on behalf of humanity, the virtue, but unfortunately they do so with complete lack of knowledge about what is occurring on the ground.
Nevertheless, above any opinion and discourse, we have irrefutable facts and figures that, as Head of State, I must defend.
The irrefutable fact is that, in the Dominican Republic, more than 350,000 persons have seen their situation regularized and will be provided the documented status to which they are entitled. For those who benefitted from Law 169-14, that status will be citizenship.
I must add that, on this issue, not many countries can exhibit similar results, in such a short period of time.
Another irrefutable fact is that there are no indiscriminate or collective repatriations occurring in our country. We have not had any since democracy was achieved. We do not need them, and of course, there won´t be any in the future either.
The Law will be enforced, yes, individually, under guarantees, and providing facilities for voluntary return, that many who did not meet the requirements of the Plan are already making use of. That is the reality of the Rule of Law.
An irrefutable reality is that in the Dominican Republic no cases of statelessness have been registered, as much as some would want to continue making them up.
As I said before, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, has not been able to verify one single case and, precisely in order to eliminate any possible risk of occurrence of statelessness, we enacted Law 169-14 and have enforced it with great success.
The irrefutable reality is, definitely, that in 2015, in our country, hundreds of thousands of people are being provided with documentations, when in 2013 they had nothing. And this, don´t doubt it, represents the most important human rights advancement ever in this region!
This is a great success story that is only possible thanks to the values on which we are building the Dominican Republic. A country that is fair, solidary, where human rights are respected and where laws are enforced.
Having said this, I cannot underscore enough that our country also has the sovereign right to regulate migration flows, just like the United States or the members of the European Union.
We will not therefore allow a continuation of this negative and dirty campaign of discredit that has a blind eye and deaf ears regarding all the guarantees provided to protect all persons, but prefers to announce to the world a humanitarian crisis that is inexistent.
We will not fold under the light of false accusations of racism and xenophobia lacking any base, in a country were mixed races have coexisted in harmony for centuries.
We will not accept this blackmail, this extortion, threatening us with international sanctions based on accusations that are completely false.
The Dominican Republic is a country open to the world, and does not forget the sacrifices of its children abroad, thus attaching great value to the contributions of all those that arrive to our land.
We are the number one tourism destination of the Caribbean and year after year our country is also the number one recipient of foreign investment, precisely because of the warm welcome that we give to all persons, and the Rule of Law that protects all investors.
However, rest assured that our sovereignty is not in question. Not for a tourist more. Not for another penny invested.
Those who prefer to believe what other interested parties tell them, who prefer to nourish biased prejudice and live in deceit, are free to do so, but don´t count on us to play their game.
Those who wish to come and verify first hand, the kindness of our people and the opportunities that we have to offer, you are welcome, as you have always been.
Thank you so much to all those present, for allowing me to inform you on these matters of such great importance for our country, and that I know will be echoed by the Member States of the Central American Integration System (SICA).