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Haitian Refugees Face Humiliation and Hopelessness

Image: Haiti border

The Analcius family shares the corner of a classroom with 14 other families while they look for work and a permanent home after being deported from the Dominican Republic. Tracy Jarrett

Loulouse Analcius was on her way to a prenatal checkup with her husband when they were stopped by police. Authorities packed them into a car and, within hours, dropped them off at the border between their home country, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, the country where they’d built a life along with their four children.

“The police told us the president of Haiti asked to have the Haitians sent back to their country,” Analcius said. She said she did not know how to argue with that mandate.

The couple’s expulsion was part of the Dominican Republic’s new immigration policy — the result of a 2013 change in the country’s constitution that says anyone born after 1929 who doesn’t have at least one parent of Dominican blood is not a Dominican citizen. The law disproportionately affects Haitians who have come into the country for work.

The Dominican government implemented a June 17 deadline to register with authorities or face deportation. Analcius had yet to register, but was deported before that deadline.

Image: Haiti border
Haitian policeman, Johnny Francois, waits at the Haiti-Dominican Republic border for Haitian refugees being deported by the Dominican government. "I've been working on the border for four years; there's always been this problem but nothing like this,” he told NBC News. “If people arrive we will take them to get a bus to immigration, but it's not our responsibility to be prepared to handle this, we are the police.” Tracy Jarrett

Many Haitians didn't register because the country had threatened deportation in previous years but never followed through. Some were also unaware of the new policy, and others waited days in line to try to receive the proper paperwork.

Related: Border Camps Forming as Dominican Republic Forces Deportations

Back in Haiti and unemployed, Analcius, 30, and her husband, Saint Soit Analcius, 35, planned to cross the border back into the Dominican Republican to reunite with their four Dominican-born children.

Haitian Deportation Plan Sparks Protests in Dominican Republic 2:02

Walking for hours and hiding along the way, the Analcius family managed to get back into the country.

“We snuck back by foot walking from 6 a.m. until about 10 p.m.,” she said. “I couldn’t be afraid because I was with my husband and it was something we had to do.”

But back in the Dominican Republic, they were faced with yet another life-altering decision: stay there for work, or go back to Haiti before the discrimination, including racist name calling, got worse.

Related: Dominican Americans: Views Against, And For, D.R.'s Immigration Policy

They decided their family would try to stay.

But a few weeks later, Saint Soit was deported again while out and about looking for work. Unable to return for his wife and children, the entire family decided to leave the Dominican for good.

They were fortunate to meet a priest upon arrival in the town of Fond Parisien, who told them they could stay in a local school building until classes started up again in August.

Image: Haiti border
The Destine family sits outside of a school in Fond Pariesien, Haiti. Approximately 200 refugees are living in the school without food and water after being deported from the Dominican Republic. Tracy Jarrett

More than 200 people are living in the school now, just 20 minutes from the Haitian-Dominican border. About half of those are children. Analcius and her family of six share a classroom with 14 other people. In the cement-floored room there is only one twin bed. Whatever families were able to bring with them is stored in garbage bags piled in the corners of the room.There is no stable source of food and water, but humanitarian organizations bring supplies multiple times a week to serve the refugees. The hardest part for Analcius: the heat in the stuffy room.

Without protection from the dangerous heat, no income, and no idea what their next move is, many of these families have lost hope.

“It's been hard. You are going through humiliation. I'd like my children to have a different life than mine, I really want to put them to school,” Analcius said. “If I had a place to stay or if [the government] gave me some place to stay and a job, I would stay in my own country and raise my kids here, but I don't have a plan, I don't know where I can find a job.”

As of the June registration deadline, 450,000 Haitians are estimated to be living in the Dominican Republic. According to the Dominican government, 180,000 Haitians officially registered to stay. Dominican officials estimate that around 40,000 Haitians willingly left the country, but it is unclear how many have been officially deported, and how many are currently still in the country. The uncertainty has caused international concern as to what the future of these immigrants holds.

Image: DOMINICAN REP-HAITI-MIGRATION
Haitians queue up to legalize their status at the Interior Ministry in Santo Domingo, on June 17, 2015. Tens of thousands of people are facing deportations as a deadline for foreigners, most of them being Haitians, to legalize their status as undocumented alien is due to expire midnight. ERIKA SANTELICES / AFP - Getty Images

The story of how Analcius ended up in Haiti echoes many others. After her father died in 1998, she thought she could live with her extended family, but disputes over land tore the family apart. Analcius’s cousin took her to the Dominican Republic, where she could find honest work and create a future brighter than the one she would have in Haiti, where jobs were scarce.

“When my dad died I had no one to protect me,” she said. “I went for the work opportunity. I worked as a maid and afterwards, at night, I would go in the streets and sell nuts to buy food to put in the table for my husband and kids.”

Analcius’s husband found work as a street vendor as well.

Aside from the benefits of consistent work, making a home in the Dominican Republic as a Haitian was not easy.

“Dominicans didn't treat me well, I always had to sleep with one eye open,” Analcius said.

According to Analcius, Dominicans treated her “like a dog,” saying she did not have the same blood as Dominican people.

But even the humiliation was a better alternative than returning home.

Image: Haiti border
A tap-tap bus crossing the border from Haiti into the Dominican Republic. Tracy Jarrett

“Even though life was hard there, it would be harder [in Haiti] because I didn't have a home or a place to stay. I didn't have the land and having to stay with family would be more humiliating,” Analcius said.

In the corner of the classroom that is now her temporary home, alongside her family and still carrying her unborn child, Analcius waits, hopelessly, to figure out what is next.

Whatever it is, “it is God’s will,” she said.