Common Dominican last names

By
Cronkite Borderlands Initiative

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — For eight years, Violeta Bosico fought for her name and a permanent place in this country.

But she still doesn’t like people to know who she is.

Bosico was one of two girls at the center of an international court case hailed as a landmark for stateless people — those not recognized as citizens of any country. After eight years of legal battles, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in 2005 that Bosico and Dilcia Yean, both born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian ancestry, were unfairly denied citizenship.

But in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, any threat to the nation’s ability to police immigration — real or perceived — raises passions among its citizens.

“There was a point where the case and the topic became very contentious in the country, ” said Sonia Pierre, founder of the Movement of Dominican-Haitian Women, which helped Bosico and Yean, “especially because there was this whole myth created around the case that it was meant to do damage to the Dominican Republic.”

So neither Bosico nor Yean has ever been publicly photographed. They remain highly guarded to protect themselves from being targeted by nationalist extremists.

Bosico, now 26, clenches her fist as she talks softly about the judgment. “This was not just about me, ” she said through an interpreter. “This was important to a lot of people.”

Six years after the ruling, the Dominican government has paid $22, 000 in damages: $8, 000 to each girl and $6, 000 for their legal fees. It arranged a publication of the facts of the case in a national newspaper. And it gave Yean and Bosico citizenship.

But the government has not taken the more far-reaching steps that might help remedy the problem of statelessness in this Caribbean country of nearly 10 million. The judgment requires a public apology, which has not been issued, and broadly calls for reform in Dominican citizenship laws that would prevent a person from becoming stateless.

Jose Angel Aquino, a top official in the Junta Central Electoral, which issues domestic identification documents, said the human rights court misconstrued Dominican laws when it ruled that the girls’ proof of birth in the country should have been enough to prove their citizenship. He said Yean and Bosico should have been granted birth certificates not because they were born in the country but because their mothers have Dominican citizenship. This is a major rift between the Dominican government and the court.

“Clearly, there is a decision of the court that we do not agree with and it is not in agreement with our legal and constitutional disposition, ” Aquino said in Spanish. “And that is that the court says that the situation of the parents cannot affect the children.”

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