SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants, many from Haiti, are rushing to secure legal residency in the Dominican Republic as Wednesday’s midnight deadline looms for them to legalize their status to avoid possible deportation.
Lines have snaked outside government offices as people — including those born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents — try to submit their paperwork before the clock strikes twelve.
A controversial 2013 Supreme Court order rendered hundreds of thousands of Dominican residents stateless. The ruling was met with international outrage. Human rights groups eventually succeeded in getting the Dominican government to soften its stance by passing a law that would allow for people to reclaim their citizenship if records of their births were registered in the national registry. Other non-citizens who could prove their identity and by showing they arrived before October 2011 would be able to get legal residency permits.
Official numbers estimate that up to 500,000 current residents of the Dominican Republic are able to apply for the program. If they are not accepted, they will remain stateless—meaning they will not be able to hold a job, vote, attend high school, apply for college, open a bank account or legally drive. The Dominican government said it will start to deport them.
To begin carrying out the deportations, the Dominican government has prepared a dozen buses and set up processing centers on the border with Haiti, about 150 miles from Santo Domingo.
All photos by Ricardo Rojas.