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The Deteriorating Immigration Situation in the Dominican Republic

Haitian immigrants and denationalized Dominicans of Haitian ancestry in the Dominican Republic are under constant threat of being deported.

One news outlet reports that 114,125 Haitians have been deported from the Dominican Republic from January through June of this year. It’s the worst that most people have ever seen. I hear reports of agents going into hospitals and deporting pregnant women, going to homes at night and pulling people out, and even going into churches during services. A Haitian pastor recently told me that this happened to him several times and now they lock the doors and close the windows during services.

Much of my work with Resonate Global Mission in the Dominican Republic has been alongside the Haitian community here. It breaks my heart to see our beloved Christian community, which is already struggling just to make ends meet, have to deal with this dangerous threat.

Our own experience, almost every case that we know about personally has come down to corruption. 

These deportations are racked with corruption—deportation has become a big business. Many of the cases we’re aware of are extortion opportunities in which the detained person is set free after paying off the officials. The police are only supposed to work with immigration officials, but they have created their own networks. Someone simply needs to report someone they know is illegal to get a cut of the bribes. They’re turning neighbor against neighbor. International human rights agreements that protect pregnant women, elderly, children, and others are being violated on a large scale. Our own experience, almost every case that we know about personally has come down to corruption. 

While many people in the Dominican Republic are there illegally, there’s a long and complex story of how we got to this situation.

To summarize the historical background: the Dominican Republic’s economy, infrastructure, foreign trade, and general development throughout the 20th century was built on one industry— sugarcane. Dominicans don’t cut sugarcane. During the colonial period, it was considered slave labor, and when slavery was abolished, foreign laborers filled the role. That became Haitian immigrants. For the last half of the 20th century, most of the sugarcane refineries were state-run. 

The short version of why there are so many Haitians in the Dominican Republic: the government brought them here to cut sugarcane, which was the economic backbone of the modernization of the country.

The constitutional change was retroactively applied

As time went on, the Dominican government became more and more lax on immigration policies as well as reneging on its fulfillment of agreements and plans to create legal channels for people. 

In 2010, the Dominican Republic ratified a new constitution that did away with jus soli, which is the right to acquire nationality or citizenship by being born within the territory of a state. In its place, they instituted jus sanguinis, by which citizenship is determined or acquired by the nationality or ethnicity of one or both parents. Everyone knew that this was targeted at Haitians.

The constitutional change was retroactively applied, stripping more than 200,000 people of their Dominican citizenship because their parents had not demonstrated that they were in the country legally when they declared their births. But they weren’t required to do that at that time. And now those people, who were Dominican citizens, aren’t citizens anymore. They can’t get papers anywhere.

This whole situation is creating a situation of permanent poverty for over half a million people who are trying to follow the laws and maintain legal citizenship. Others are just trying to lay low and get by.

Haitians carry the majority of the work in agriculture, construction, and a fair amount of the tourist industry in the Dominican Republic.

Given the increasing instability in Haiti, this situation is not going to go away. It's going to get worse before it gets better. 

Here are a few things you can do to help:

  • Pray for justice for the foreigner in our midst.

  • You can work with Canadian or United States government programs to sponsor individuals to come to Canada or the United States.

  • Help fund our work. Resonate Global Mission is working with our partners in the Dominican Republic, the Christian Reformed Church in the Dominican Republic (CRCDR) and Juventud Empoderada para la Transformación (JET), to help Haitian immigrants to secure one-year visitor visas, temporary visitor status, and in a few cases, residency. We are also working with people of Haitian descent who were born in the Dominican Republic to register their status. You can help fund these efforts by giving online at

Photo provided by Resonate Global Mission.  Written by Stephen Brauning a Resonate Global Mission missionary working in the Dominican Republic.


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