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In a clear case of racial discrimination and profiling, the brown-skinned people of the Dominican Republic are deporting the brown-skinned people of Haiti.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and have a long history of cross-border tension. Relations improved in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 quake, with the Dominican government providing assistance and serving as a staging ground for the international relief effort. Still, human rights groups complain that Haitians are subjected to bitter discrimination.

The Dominican government, which suspended deportations after the earthquake, resumed anti-illegal immigration efforts this week, stopping and detaining people at checkpoints around the country. In a rare move, checkpoints were also set up outside the capital.

More than 700 Haitians have been deported since Monday and more are expected in coming days, said Ambiorix Rosario, Department of Migration spokesman.

Dominican officials said the crackdown is necessary to stem growing illegal immigration. Human rights groups criticized the deportations, accusing authorities of stopping and questioning people based on their physical appearance.

“The acting authorities are clearly following a racial profile to decide who should be detained,” said Francisco Leonardo with the Jesuit Refugee and Migration Service.

Haiti is much poorer than the Dominican Republic. 80% of all Haitians are poor (54% in abject poverty) and 47.1% were illiterate. The country of nine million people has a fast-growing population, but over two-thirds of the labor force lack formal jobs. Haiti’s per capita GDP was $1,300 in 2008, or less than one-sixth of the Dominican figure. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Haitians have migrated to the Dominican Republic, with some estimates of 800,000 Haitians in the country, while others put the Haitian-born population as high as one million. They usually work at low-paying and unskilled jobs in building construction, household cleaning, and in sugar plantations. There have been accusations that some Haitian immigrants work in slavery-like conditions.

A large number of Haitian women, often arriving with several health problems, cross the border to Dominican soil during their last weeks of pregnancy to obtain much-needed medical attention for childbirth, since Dominican public hospitals do not refuse medical services based on nationality or legal status. Statistics from a hospital in Santo Domingo report that over 22% of childbirths are by Haitian mothers.

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