Dominican Republic to target illegal immigrants

AP News
Posted: Oct 19, 2011 7:51 PM
Dominican Republic to target illegal immigrants

The government of the Dominican Republic announced a new crackdown on illegal immigration Wednesday that will lead to the ouster of thousands of Haitians who escaped a devastating earthquake last year.

Any migrants lacking appropriate documents will be deported immediately, said Immigration Director Jose Ricardo Taveras.

"Starting today, those who come to our country should arrive with a standard visa," he said.

The proposal was signed by President Leonel Fernandez and aims to document and classify all migrants according to their work and migration status for the first time in the country's history. It will also afford them proper identification.

Government officials did not provide further details about the plan or say when they would act on it.

Lucien Jura, a spokesman for Haitian President Michel Martelly, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The plan is part of an immigration law approved in 2004 that seeks to establish quotas for foreign workers and reduce the number of Haitian migrants seeking jobs in the construction and agriculture industries.

An estimated 600,000 Haitians live illegally in the Dominican Republic, a group that Dominican authorities say grew by 15 percent after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit neighboring Haiti last year.

Sonia Adames, director of Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Services, criticized the plan and said it will allow the government to continue to target the children of Haitian migrants born in the Dominican Republic.

The migrant advocacy group released a study last week accusing the government of confiscating or annulling nearly 1,600 birth certificates belonging to residents of Haitian descent.

Last year, the government amended the Caribbean country's constitution to deny citizenship to children born in the Dominican Republic to foreign parents.

Taveras, however, said foreigners who prove they have remained at least 10 years in the Dominican Republic can opt for permanent residency.

Earlier this year, the Dominican Republic ousted thousands of illegal immigrants, the majority of them Haitian, citing fears of a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 6,000 people in Haiti.