Fleeing To Haiti, They Put Their Faith In 'God And Government' : Goats and Soda Thousands of residents of the Dominican Republic — many of Haitian descent — have been stripped of citizenship. Facing deportation, they've moved into camps. Now they're living in limbo.
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Fleeing To Haiti, They Put Their Faith In 'God And Government'

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Fleeing To Haiti, They Put Their Faith In 'God And Government'

Fleeing To Haiti, They Put Their Faith In 'God And Government'

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Settlement camps have sprung up in Haiti along its southeastern border with the Dominican Republic. The camps are filled with people who have left the DR in advance of formal deportations that could begin as early as August 1. They fled after a Dominican immigration law stripped hundreds of thousands of people of citizenship. Many tried unsuccessfully to apply to stay in the DR. As Peter Granitz reports from southern Haiti, the settlement camps are growing by the day.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Twenty-nine-year-old Marie Etyse has five children. Only three are with her.

MARIE ETYSE: (Through interpreter) I couldn't travel back with all of them. I had to leave two behind.

GRANITZ: Etyse left a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old in the Dominican town she lived in for the past nine years. They're staying with the family of her deceased husband. She stands on the bank of a bone-dry riverbed. It hasn't rained here in 10 months. That rocky river bottom is the international border and people walk back and forth. It's one of the countless unofficial crossings along the 230-mile line that separates the two countries of Hispaniola. Etyse had lived just five miles across the riverbed in a town called Black Water. She started the process to get the required papers to stay in the country as a Haitian migrant, but it didn't work.

ETYSE: (Through interpreter) All the people in the process kept asking for money. They asked for money for the papers and then the papers are no good.

GRANITZ: So she came here to Tete de l'Eau three months ago, long before the June 17 deadline. Dozens of others crowd around.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

GRANITZ: Everybody has been here for at least three to six months. Because of the refugees, Tete de l'Eau has doubled in size to about 400 people, and it continues to grow. That's a problem. Most of the people here farmed in the Dominican Republic, but with no water, irrigation or available land, that's not an option in Haiti. Charlesline Lyone thumbs the bowl of her pipe as she explains how she and her husband are living on their little savings to make ends meet. She says they're waiting on two things - God and the government.

CHARLESLINE LYONE: (Through interpreter) If we have one pot of rice, we'll separate it in two. We'll make it last twice as long.

GRANITZ: There are at least four settlements in this part of Haiti. A handful of NGOs register people, and the local parish hands out food and blankets when it can. The local head of the Haitian Department of Civil Protection estimates at least 2,000 people have settled here during the past few months. If the Dominican government proceeds with formal deportations in the coming weeks, the numbers will only grow. Some of the settlements, like Tete de l'Eau, feel like brand-new villages or ones transported from the other side of the border; others less so.

About 30 minutes south in a four-wheel-drive vehicle is Parc Cadeau. Residents squat in tents made from sticks, plastic sheeting and cardboard. People are cutting down cactus and burning the brush to accommodate the growing population. It's dusty here. Kids running around are coated in it. This place has the feel of a refugee camp. There are some 115 families here. It's where we find Fefe Jean. He was born in the Dominican Republic, though he can't prove it and came to Parc Cadeau June 29. He takes a break from cutting branches with a machete for a kitchen next to his tent.

FEFE JEAN: (Through interpreter) My neighbors told me to come over here and stay for a while. When things calm down, I could go back.

GRANITZ: Though, he admits, that's not likely. He says he's the color of a Haitian and prefers Creole to Spanish. That makes life dangerous in the DR. For NPR News, I'm Peter Granitz near Anse-a-Pitres, Haiti.

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