For a Few Haitians, Repatriation From DR Proves Bittersweet

Jul 7, 2023
4:17 PM
Originally published at The Haitian Times

Félix Etienne’s wife and son posing for a picture in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, January 2023. (Marvens Compère/The Haitian Times)

By ONZ CHÉRY, Haitian Times

SANTO DOMINGO — Getting repatriated often comes with shame, sadness, and even despair, but for Félix Etienne, while he was on a repatriation bus ride from the Dominican Republic to Haiti, his heart was filled with joy because he was going home.

“I was not discouraged,” said Etienne, a construction worker in Santo Domingo. “I was happy because I hadn’t seen my mom, my little sister, my little brother in a long time.”

Days after being repatriated, Etienne paid a coyote to go back to the Dominican Republic, mainly to be with his wife and baby son again. Etienne was repatriated twice and paid a return trip to the D.R. on both occasions.

For most, repatriation is to be avoided at all costs. However, a few Haitians find them to be a blessing in disguise. After getting repatriated, many easily return to the Dominican Republic by paying a coyote. Or if they’re lucky enough, they can pay the immigration officers directly to let them go.

Schnider Brutus, a taxi-moto driver, had done so in Santo Domingo last year, paying an immigration police officer 2,000 pesos, or $35 (about 5,500 gourdes). Meanwhile, many Haitians try to run away from immigration officers and some end up losing their lives.

Raquel Ogando, a documented fast food worker, saw a man get hit by a car while he was running away from immigration officers near her workplace at Friusa Food Park in Punta Cana in November 2021. The man died instantly.

“They were going to send you home. Why would you lose your life over this?” Ogando, 24, said. “It was better to just go home and just be done with it. Why were you running? Where were you going?”

Although Brutus was lucky enough not to get repatriated last year, he was sent back when he was 17. Brutus was at Elias Piña, a border province, with his mother selling goods when immigration officers caught them.

“I’m not the one who chose to go (to Haiti),” said Brutus as he sat in his living room in January. “There was a deportation and they just chose me.”

Schnider Brutus on his motorcycle in Santo Domingo in January 2023. (Onz Chery/The Haitian Times)

Brutus was born in the Dominican Republic and had never been to Haiti. Before that, Brutus always used to tell his mother that he wanted to go to Haiti. But Brutus did not like the fact that he went to Haiti through deportation.

While in Haiti, Brutus passed through Mirebalais, Lascahobas, Belladère and Croix-des-Bouquets before getting dropped off at Malpasse, a border town in the Sud-Est department. He crossed back to the Dominican Republic through Jimaní, a city near Malpasse.

“I was happy,” Brutus said. “I was proud that I stepped foot on my soil, where I’m from.”


Onz Chéry is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. Twitter: @Onz_11