What's next for undocumented migrants in Dominican Republic?

Estimated 200,000 remain undocumented

By Neki Mohan - Anchor/Reporter

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - The last deadline for undocumented migrants to self-deport is past. The world now watches and waits to see what will happen next in the Dominican Republic.

A Local 10 News crew traveled to the Dominican Republic recently and found lines of frustrated people who at the time still had time to hand in paperwork.

Anna Jean Baptista, a mother of two, said the process has been slow and feels abusive. Every day she takes public transportation from her home to get to Santo Domingo to stand in line at the government building to complete the paperwork registering her as a documented worker in the Dominican Republic. Baptista has been to this line for four days, waiting all day, never to be seen.

"I have all my paperwork completed since February," Baptista said. "I come here every day and they just give an appointment. How many days do we have to be here?"

Undocumented people were given until June 17 to register for legal status. More than 500,000 undocumented people are believed to be residing in the Dominican Republic, and more than 90 percent of those are Haitian descendants.

A 2013 ruling stripped citizenship from anyone not born to a Dominican citizen before 1929. Less than half of all those undocumented are believed to have registered, leaving many to wonder what will happen to the remaining 200,000 people.

So far, about 30,000 are believed to have gone back to Haiti, a place that many of them do not know or speak the language of.

Families who have been in the Dominican Republic for decades are being forced to split up.

Local 10 News was told by aid workers that some parents are leaving their children with other families because they feel the children will be safe if the parents leave voluntarily.

Humanitarian groups gave Local 10 News video of military roundups of people they believe are undocumented Haitians. People report being snatched off the streets and thrown across the border.

The residents of the border towns have said they are being harassed every day. Peter Song is a longtime teacher and has a family, but has been thrown over the border several times.

"I am a professional with a masters," Song said. "I have been here 17 years in the Dominican Republic. My mom is here; my brother is here. I have a big family, but that hurts."

Local 10 News contacted officials from the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo and Miami, but no one would comment officially on what is happening there.

The international community is putting pressure on officials in the Dominican Republic not to do mass deportations. For Haiti, this would mean hundreds of thousands of people will cross the borders with nowhere to go, creating a humanitarian crisis in an already unstable economy.

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