DR: Haitian Legalization Deadline Has Passed; Now What?

Hundreds of Dominicans of Haitian origin protest to reclaim their right to their Dominican nationality and to denounce their situation after a 2013 verdict by the Constitutional Tribunal outside the National Congress in Santo Domingo, March 12, 2014. A September 2013 court ruling retroactively denies the Dominican nationality to anyone born after 1929 who does not have at least one parent of Dominican blood, under a constitutional clause declaring all others to be either in the country illegally or "in transit". The decision will effectively strip families of Haitian immigrants of their Dominican nationality. The sign reads " I'm Dominican, and I have rights". REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3GTXA

Hundreds of Dominicans of Haitian origin protest to reclaim their right to their Dominican nationality and to denounce their situation after a 2013 verdict by the Constitutional Tribunal outside the National Congress in Santo Domingo, March 12, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

Tensions are high in the Dominican Republic, and communities around the world are watching. The deadline for Dominicans of Haitian descent to produce paperwork to apply for legal residency has passed, and many are worried about when the government will begin deporting them to Haiti. More than 200,000 undocumented immigrants living in the Dominican Republic have registered for citizenship, but that means another 200,000 will not meet the deadline. Stories have been circulating about the difficulty in filing paperwork.

For decades, the country granted automatic citizenship to anyone born in the Dominican Republic, but in 2013 the law was revised, limiting citizenship to those with at least one parent with Dominican blood or who had already been declared legal residents.

Many Haitians came to the Dominican Republic as laborers. Their children were delivered by midwives, many of whom did not keep official records. Thus, it is difficult for many Dominicans of Haitian descent to produce the required paperwork even for consideration to stay in the country. Ironically, employers can provide undocumented workers with a certificate that will enable them to stay in the country, but many employers are refusing to supply the certificates. Of those who applied for legalization by the deadline, 96 percent did not have the required documentation needed to qualify for legalization.

Andrés Navarro, the Dominican Republic’s foreign minister, who had previously stated that those who did not have their paperwork by the June 17 deadline would be deported, is now saying this isn’t the case. Reports are surfacing that Navarro has now pushed back the date for deportations by 45 days in order to ensure a “credible process” by processing the paperwork, creating a database that will be shared with the Haitian government and minimizing errors.

However, Greg Grandi of The Nation is reporting the following:

Gen. Rubén Darío Paulino Sem, the army official in charge of the deportation, says the expulsion will start this Thursday, June 18. Sem has been overseeing the construction of seven concentration camps—which he calls “shelters,” or “centros de acogida”—where Dominicans suspected of being of Haitian descent will be housed until a “final evaluation” can be made.

These two positions aren’t necessarily incompatible. Navarro could be talking about the final deportation to Haiti—which leaves room for the roundup to start next week, with the detained placed in Sem’s camps.

To read this article in its entirety, visit The Root.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large at The Root and founder of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter.

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