SANTO DOMINGO – Dominican President Danilo Medina said on Tuesday that 900 soldiers, supported by 90 vehicles and three helicopters, will be immediately deployed to secure the borders, especially the boundary with Haiti.
Medina made the announcement at a moment when some sectors of Dominican society are demanding that the government take action against a “quiet invasion” of undocumented immigrants from Haiti.
“We will coordinate all the institutions that operate on the border: the army, the navy, the air force, Border Security and the General Migration Directorate, so that Dominican law is respected on the border,” the president said in a speech to a joint session of Congress.
He said that the borders will also be monitored from the air and sea and that drones and surveillance cameras would be part of the effort.
“We Dominicans have our own national project, which isn’t better or worse than others, but it is ours. This is very clear to us and it is our responsibility to strengthen it and to work to defend it,” Medina said to applause from lawmakers, officials and guests.
He said that the government’s mission is to protect the people and the country’s heritage and territory.
Medina acknowledged, however, that it was unrealistic to expect to have secure, orderly borders if at the same time Dominicans “fuel the demand for undocumented workers in sectors such as agriculture, construction and in our own homes.”
In the past, the Dominican government cited unofficial estimates of around 1 million Haitians living in the country, most of them illegal immigrants working 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 sugarcane.