By Aníbal de Castro, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Aníbal de Castro is ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the United States. This article is a response to an opinion piece from Amnesty International published earlier this week. The views expressed are his own.
The Dominican Republic is taking proactive steps to tackle the complex issue of immigration by implementing a policy for registering both national and immigrant citizens, while protecting everyone’s fundamental rights. And the challenges the Dominican Republic is facing to adopt these policies are not much different than those confronting the United States and other nations.
But, as lawmakers around the world have learned – there are no easy solutions.
Last September, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government of the Dominican Republic was required to launch a proactive process to implement a fair and transparent immigration policy, one that respects each person’s contribution to Dominican society and gives clarity to an outdated system. This marks a historic moment in the country’s 170-year history, and will enhance the security and prosperity of the Dominican Republic and island of Hispaniola at large.
This inclusive immigration policy will help improve the condition of undocumented immigrants in a transparent and fair manner. Over the next 18 months, the government will implement measures that will make clear the migratory status of approximately 435,000 people from almost 120 countries. All the while, the government is maintaining its strong commitment to human rights and international standards.
Importantly, the government is working to implement this new policy in a way that will protect the fundamental rights of every person living on Dominican soil.
Communication and cooperation with the international community and key allies is critical to achieving our goals. In fact, the Dominican Republic has received support from the international community, including the EU and the current U.S. ambassador for tackling this thorny matter in an open and transparent manner. We look forward to continued engagement and dialogue with the EU, UN, OAS, and CARICOM as this policy is developed.
Maintaining constant dialogue with our close neighbor and key ally, Haiti, is equally crucial to our efforts.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti have a long-standing, collaborative relationship, and our effort to modernize documentation and border policies is another valuable opportunity to work closely with Haitians to improve the development and security of the island of Hispaniola. The stability and security of the island is a shared challenge, and both governments are proactively engaging and collaborating for the benefit of both Dominicans and Haitians.
The two countries have launched a dialogue at the highest level to develop a comprehensive immigration solution. We are also are working together to promote joint projects to strengthen bilateral trade, improve infrastructure, enhance healthcare services and strengthen border security. The Dominican Republic looks forward to continuing our close collaboration with Haiti on these, and other, important issues.
The Dominican Republic is a multicultural, inclusive society that has always worked hard to support its immigrant community. We are committed to guaranteeing basic services, including free access to education and healthcare, to all individuals living in the country. The Dominican Republic currently invests 18 percent of its healthcare budget to service the immigrant population and 54,000 immigrant students (this number refers to both public school and university students from Haiti) are registered in public schools throughout the country. Further, the government ensures the right for all children to access a free education, regardless of migratory status or nationality. This strong commitment to guaranteeing basic services will continue, as we strive to improve the quality of life for all individuals living on Dominican soil.
We appreciate the international community’s support as we embark on this complex process to implement a comprehensive immigration policy that will facilitate our progress towards a successful island as a whole and continue to involve our most important ally, Haiti.