An estimated 500,000 citizens of the Dominican Republic face the prospect of being deported to Haiti this week as new laws are put in place. In 2013 the court stripped children who were born to Haitian migrants of their citizenship and left tens of thousands of people of Haitian descent stateless. After international outrage the Dominican government passed a law in 2014 stating that those who were born to undocumented foreign parents and whose birth has not been registered in the Dominican Republic could apply for the residency permit as foreigners. After two years they can then apply for naturalisation.
Many people have actively resisted saying they are not foreigners but Dominican citizens by birth. Yesterday was the deadline for the application and many people are in fear of being picked up and forced to cross the border. Mass roundups have been denied by the interior minister Ramon Fadul but the country’s director of migration, major general Ruben Dario Paulino, told local press that 2,000 police and military officers and 150 inspectors had received special training for deportations. He said 250,000 people started the application but only 10,000 met the requirements and only 300 have received permits.
For many Haitian migrants who were born in Haiti but are living in the Dominican Republic undocumented, getting passports and ID from the embassy has been a slow and costly experience. Many cannot prove that they have been in the country for more than five years because employers refuse to admit they have been hiring illegals.
The programme, known as The Shield, has managed to escape mainstream media but since the first deportation in the first quarter of 2015 it has sparked international attention. Some 40,000 people have already been deported and rumours have been circulating that the next few days will see another roundup at the batey – a company town for sugarcane workers. Human rights activists have documented people who were on their way to apply for residency but swept up and taken to the border. But now hundreds of people are living in fear and know that without proof their own existence, they will be left displaced.