Officials in the Dominican Republic have promised they would not enact “mass deportations” of over 200,000 illegal Haitian migrants after the conclusion of a “regularlization” program meant to provide adequate paperwork to foreigners who had been living and working in the country illegally.
Foreigners, mostly of Haitian descent, living in the Dominican Republic were given until 7 PM Wednesday to register with the federal government in the National Foreigner Regularization Program (PNRE), the result of a 2013 court case in which a Haitian woman born in the Dominican Republic was deemed not to be a Dominican citizen because her parents had arrived in the Dominican Republic illegally. Those who fit the profile of woman in that case were stripped of legal status and forced to reregister with the government. While that deadline was extended to midnight on Wednesday, Dominican officials estimated that 275,000 people were issued legal status in the Dominican Republic.
The future of those who were unable to register– many who were repeatedly turned away because of faulty paperwork– remains unclear. Reuters reports that Dominican President Danilo Medina has promised no mass deportations will occur. Army Gen. Ruben Paulino said on Tuesday, however, that any unregistered person will be deported after the deadline. He told reporters that the government had already prepared 12 buses, seven light trucks, and two ambulances to patrol Dominican streets to target, find, and deport illegal immigrants. Reuters notes that about 2,000 Dominican troops have also been prepared to control potential disorder.
The city patrols to find illegal migrants are not new, however; the government had been patrolling streets in attempts to find foreigners throughout the past year, but then to tell them to register at an immigration office. The registration window now closed, those patrols would presumably help deport any foreigners it found.
In response to the uncertainty, the government of Haiti has prepared checkpoints along the border, with Preisdent Michel Martelly stating that his country is “ready to receive with dignity its children, our brothers.”
So far, those seeking immigration documents have proven no threat to authorities. Local media report that some Haitian nationals even joked about the length of lines at immigration centers and the possibility of being deported. The distrust, reports Listín, appeared in Dominicans much more than Haitians, some of whom refused to buy fruit from Haitian vendors fearing that, deportation looming, they would “have reactions.” No incidents of violence, poisoning, or any other irregularity were reported, however.
Haitians seeking registration reported a number of strange circumstances to Dominican reporters while on line, however. Some waiting outside of the immigration offices across the country told Listín that they were placed on a list outside of the building and charged 1,000 Dominican pesos, then told to return to the immigration office on Monday, despite the program ending on Wednesday.
Some Haitian nationals have chosen to forego the struggle and return to Haiti, where they believe Dominican embassies will be easier to access and more efficient in processing them and allowing them into the country. Haitian authorities have reportedly told nationals to return home and file for paperwork there in order to alleviate the strain on Dominican immigration offices. “I’d rather go to my country with my things and later try to get a passport with my Dominican visa, that way I have no problems,” one Haitian national, Marit Saná Ongué, told Listín.