SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Thousands of people braced Thursday for deportation from the Dominican Republic after failing to obtain legal residency as part of a government program to crack down on migrants.
At least a few of them were turned away at midnight Wednesday's deadline after standing in line for more than 24 hours to submit applications to establish their legal status.
Most of those affected are Haitians or of Haitian descent.
"I haven't bathed since yesterday, nor taken a shower, and I'm tired," said Bento Baptiste, 19, who had stood in line and said he has no relatives left in Haiti except for one sister.
Like many others, he didn't know what he would do next. Authorities on Thursday were expected to patrol main cities across the Dominican Republic to detain and deport people.
Officials said more than 260,000 people enrolled in the immigration registration program, but noted that only some 10,000 have provided the required documents.
The program began last June after legal challenges delayed its original launch in 2004. Non-citizens can qualify for legal residency if they can prove they have been in the Dominican Republic since before October 2011.
The government implemented the program amid international criticism of a Supreme Court decision saying people born in the Dominican Republic to non-citizens did not qualify for citizenship under the constitution unless they had at least one parent who was a citizen or legal resident. The ruling rendered thousands effectively stateless. Officials said they will grant citizenship to some 50,000 people in this category.
An estimated 460,000 Haitian migrants live in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.