A rush for Dominican residency permits
People of Haitian descent face deadline to avoid deportation.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — People waited anxiously in long lines throughout the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, eager to submit applications for legal residency before a midnight deadline and avoid possible deportation.
Many had been waiting since the night before, clutching documents they hoped would be sufficient to establish their legal status and allow them to stay in a country that, for some at least, is the only home they have ever known. Nearly all are from Haiti or of Haitian descent.
“I have nothing in Haiti,” said Jaquenol Martinez, a sugar cane worker waiting to submit his application under a program to register migrant workers that began a year ago.
Martinez said he has been in the Dominican Republic since coming from neighboring Haiti with his parents as an 8-year-old in 1963. Under the “regularization” program, he should qualify for legal residency, but the Haitian government has yet to provide him with a birth certificate to establish his identity.
Others said they had similar difficulties getting identification from the Haitian Embassy or have been unable to get documents from employers in the Dominican Republic, where many work under informal arrangements.
The immigration registration program was supposed to have started in 2004 but it was delayed by legal challenges and didn’t begin until last June. Noncitizens must show they have been here since before October 2011 to qualify for residency.
The law is aimed at regulating the f low of migrants from impoverished Haiti.
The government pushed it forward last year amid international criticism of a Supreme Court decision saying people born in the country to noncitizens did not qualify for citizenship unless they had at least one parent who was a citizen or legal resident.
The ruling in effect rendered thousands stateless. The government said about 50,000 people in this category will be granted citizenship.
The Interior Ministry has said there are about 500,000 people who could qualify for residency under the program.