Hundreds of thousands of Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent are facing the risk of deportation after a deadline for naturalization came on Wednesday. Reuters reports a new immigration law passed by the Dominican Republic reserves the right to deport any Haitian immigrants without proper documentation starting 48 hours after the deadline.
The Dominican government aims to combat long-standing immigration challenges with neighbouring Haiti. Over the past few years the Dominican government has passed multiple laws restricting citizenship for perceived illegal immigrants and their descendants. Haitians and human rights groups say the laws are rooted in xenophobia towards darker skinned Haitians.
While Dominican president Danilo Medina has said that there will be no mass deportations, the Dominican government has mobilized 2,000 troops to coordinate and staff four “welcome centers” meant to receive undocumented people.
WCRC member churches in the Dominican Republic are deeply troubled by “this shameful event” and report, “the authorities have proceeded as mandated by Dominican law on the regulation of foreigners who have not formalized their legal status in the country.”
One member pastor said, “As a church we have committed to action through prayers for God’s intercession so that his divine justice may guide the people in charge of monitoring compliance with law do so with respect and human dignity.”
In the Gospel Jesus calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself” as one of the two “highest commandments of law.” The WCRC stresses this message in light of the situation in the Dominican Republic, the ensuing tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti and the continuing migrant crisis in Europe.
Please join us in prayer for our sisters and brothers in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Please pray that those in need of official documents will be given the time to obtain them. Please pray for restraint on the part of the Dominican authorities and that they will show the proper respect for all people within the Dominican Republic, regardless of origin. Please pray for the end of xenophobia, both in the Dominican Republic and around the world.