The Dominican Republic may soon deport tens of thousands of residents with foreign ties, including those born on Dominican soil.
Dominican authorities recently implemented new rules for immigration enforcement. The vast majority of Dominican non-citizens are from Haiti, which shares an island with the Dominican Republic and is much poorer. While they have come to the Dominican Republic for decades, including sometimes by force, many Haitians in the country today came after the 2010 earthquake that devastated their homeland.
The new standards also apply to native-born Dominicans of Haitian descent, many of whom have never been to Haiti and speak Spanish rather than French or Haitian Creole. In fact, a 2013 law revoked the citizenship of any Haitian who came to the Dominican Republic after 1929, or their descendants.
These Haitian-Dominicans, many of whom were born to manual laborers and never received birth certificates or other means of justifying their citizenship, face a deadline late Wednesday to register with the government. Otherwise, they risk being caught, transported to the Haitian border and forced to return to their family’s country of origin.
As the Washington Post put it, many native-born Dominicans therefore now “have no home on either side of the island.” One 21-year-old mother of three noted that “I have never been to Haiti.” The New York Times estimates that tens of thousands are also in her position.
According to observers, in practice the new rules mean that the government is likely to simply round up anyone with dark skin or Haitian-looking features. One aid worker told The Nation that police vehicles have swept through neighborhoods in recent days, detaining individuals who are “disproportionately Haitian or dark-skinned Dominicans with Haitian facial features.”
The Dominican Republic has held Haitians in suspicion for nearly a century. In 1937, President Rafael Trujillo ordered the massacre of tens of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican borderlands.
And in recent years, Haitians have been publicly lynched around the release of new immigration laws or regulations. In February 2015, 15-year Dominican resident Henry Claude Jean, a shoeshiner, was found hanging from a tree in a public square with his hands and feet bound.
It is unknown what exactly will happen Thursday, after the last deadline for normalizing citizenship status passes. But the government has reportedly leased buses, apparently ready to transport residents en masse — many for breaking a new law decades ago.
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