MAO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Immigration agents in the Dominican Republic deported 163 illegal Haitian immigrants, the majority of them women and children who lived in the streets of the northwestern city of Mao, officials said.
The sweeps were conducted after Valverde province Gov. Manuel Guichardo called on immigration officials to reduce the massive Haitian presence in the region.
Many of the Haitians managed to evade immigration agents because they were tipped off by their countrymen via cell phone, police said.
The Haitians were taken in two trucks to a border crossing in the northwestern province of Dajabon, where they were handed over to Haitian immigration officials.
Haitian officials initially refused to allow the deportees in, claiming there was no proof that the people had been born in Haiti.
The sweeps targeted illegal immigrants in San Antonio, Los Cajuiles, La Compuerta, Buenos Aires, Motocross and Los Restauradores, where residents had threatened to expel the Haitians themselves if officials did not take action.
Residents accused the Haitians of committing most of the crimes in the area.
Earlier this month, immigration agents deported 43 illegal Haitian immigrants, including 25 women who worked as prostitutes in the northern city of Santiago and six men serving prison sentences.
The group of repatriated Haitians also included 12 children who wandered around the streets of Santiago, the General Migration Administration said.
The women were detained during an operation targeting Haitian prostitutes in the Dominican Republic’s second-largest city, immigration officials said.
The children, who ranged in age from 8 to 13, were arrested by immigration inspectors for harassing pedestrians, tourists and customers at shopping centers, immigration officials said.
Dominican officials estimate that around 1 million Haitians live in the country, most of them illegal immigrants who work in agriculture and construction.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti in the western portion. Though both countries are poor, Haiti is destitute, and Haitians cross the border to do work that many Dominicans will not do, such as harvesting sugar cane.
Haitians have been the target of mob violence numerous times in recent years, and the Dominican government has been widely criticized for its treatment of the migrants. EFE