Dominican Deportations Reach Crisis Levels, Haitian President Says
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Now a look at where things stand between the governments of Haiti and its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. The DR gave Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent a deadline earlier this month to prove their citizenship or be deported. Haiti says it's already reached its limit. As Peter Granitz reports from Port-au-Prince, the diplomatic impasse has left many in Haiti confused.
PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Haitian President Michel Martelly says his government has taken in more than 14,000 people.
MICHEL MARTELLY: Of course, it's already a crisis.
GRANITZ: The 14,000 figure cannot be verified, but it's a number that, according to Martelly, is just about the upper limit of how many people the Haitian government can successfully welcome without major problems.
MARTELLY: We have not been told by the Dominicans how many people are coming. As a matter of fact, they are saying that they haven't started yet. What we are getting are the people that were just coming to Haiti.
GRANITZ: Martelly says some of the people who are coming to Haiti at this point are doing so voluntarily, and the DR says it has not started formal expulsions. Martelly says its government will welcome its people with dignity and provide them with basic services.
But there's little evidence of that in Belladere. It's a small, quiet crossing at about the halfway point of the 230-mile common border. The Haitian migration office here is closed, and the only visible government officials are all on the Dominican side. The international line itself is an unhooked chain resting on the ground. The Haitian side of the border is gravel; the Dominican - asphalt. A half-dozen mototaxi drivers lounge under trees listening to music. Kids splash in a nearby river. By the side of the road, not far from the moto-drivers, Maslyne Laguerre is selling cooked bananas, bananas she buys in the DR then prepares and sells in Haiti. She rests her head on a low table, sheltering under a red umbrella in the midday heat. Business has slowed. The regulars at the border crossing have not showed this week.
MASLYNE LAGUERRE: (Through interpreter) They rarely come. They used to buy everything in the DR and bring it back to Haiti to sell.
GRANITZ: Haitians know this crossing as an easy one, one without the hassle at the customs offices seen at the bigger ones. It's where you can cross over and buy things in the DR then come back to Haiti and sell them at a markup. That's something 27-year-old Marcos Privat does all the time. He works for a storeowner who has two shops - one in the DR and one in Haiti. Privat grew up on the Haitian side, and the Dominicans who man the border know him, so they never give him a hard time about papers. He lives in the Dominican Republic, and he never started the regularization process. He knows people who have left, including his sister. He says she was intimidated into leaving. And while he's friendly with the Dominican military at the border, he's worried about roundups from police or immigration officers.
MARCOS PRIVAT: (Through interpreter) If I have to leave quickly, I can. I have my bag ready to go if I can't live there anymore.
GRANITZ: The Dominican government says more than 17,000 people have left voluntarily. And President Danilo Medina says there will not be any indiscriminate roundups. Hermane Jean has lived near the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, for a long time. He doesn't know how long, but he thinks it's more than 20 years. He wants to stay, so he's taken the necessary steps. He applied for a Haitian passport at the consulate in Santo Domingo last August. He's still waiting for one. He's back in Haiti for his mother's funeral, and now he's stuck in Belladere. Despite the paper showing he started the regularization process, the Dominican military won't let him back in.
HERMANE JEAN: (Through interpreter) All of my children - over there. My wife - over there. My cow - over there. My pig - over there. Here, I have nothing. Everything is over there.
GRANITZ: But he's stuck in Haiti, and he doesn't know for how long. For NPR News, I'm Peter Granitz in Belladere, Haiti. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.