In what critics describe as ethnic “cleansing,” scores of Haitian migrant workers are set to be deported from the Dominican Republic this week, highlighting the country’s long-troubled relationship with its Caribbean neighbor, according to media reports.

Undocumented workers had until Wednesday to register their presence in the country, in the hopes of being allowed to stay, reports The New York Times, which notes that nearly 240,000 migrant workers born outside the Dominican Republic have started the registration process, but a large swath of the population is at risk of deportation.

The process began in 2013, The Times writes, when a constitutional court moved to strip the citizenship of children born to Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic as far back as 1929. Many of the people affected by the ruling had lived their whole lives in the Dominican Republic and knew nothing of Haiti, not even the language, the report says.

From The New York Times:

An international outcry prompted the government to soften its stance somewhat with a law the next year. It promised citizenship to children whose births were in the nation’s civil registry, and a chance at nationalization for those not formally registered.

Advocates and international legal bodies said it still fell short. Anything less than full citizenship left these people stateless, belonging neither to their birthplace nor to their family’s homeland, they argued. But that group does not appear to be the target of the deportations, at least not directly.

Andrés Navarro García, the Dominican minister of foreign relations, told reporters on a trip to Spain that a majority of those subject to deportation had already started the registration process and would not be deported.

The government, which has a long history of animus toward its Haitian neighbors, has disturbingly described the process as a “cleansing” of the country’s immigration rolls, writes The Washington Post:

There was a time when that split between the two countries was drawn with blood; the 1937 Parsley Massacre is widely regarded as a turning point in Haitian-Dominican relations. The slaughter, carried out by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, targeted Haitians along with Dominicans who looked dark enough to be Haitian — or whose inability to roll the “r” in perejil, the Spanish word for parsley, gave them away…

“The massacre cemented Haitians into a long-term subversive outsider incompatible with what it means to be Dominicans,” according to Border of Lights, an organization that commemorated the 75th anniversary of the massacre in 2012.

No one knows what the future will bring on Thursday, the reports say. But Cassandre Theano, a legal officer at the New York-based Open Society Foundations, tells The Post people are concerned “that they will be indiscriminately targeting people who are darker skinned, black Dominicans, Dominican Haitians and Haitian migrants.”

We hope the Dominican government will once again evaluate this policy and do what’s right by its citizens. What do you think? Sound off in the comments section.

SOURCE: The New York Times, Washington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter | VIDEO SOURCE: NDN

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