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A Haitian Border Town Struggles with New Rules in the Dominican Republic

Protesters burn a Dominican flag in front of the country's consulate during an anti-Dominican Republic protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. Protesters outraged over a Feb. 11 lynching of a young man of Haitian descent in the Dominican city of Santiago are demanding the neighboring country respect the human rights of Haitians. (Dieu Nalio Chery/AP)
Protesters burn a Dominican flag in front of the country’s consulate during an anti-Dominican Republic protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (Dieu Nalio Chery/AP)

 

 Several mornings a week for the past five years, Smith Laflur has left his one-room cinder-block shack, walked past the stray goats and the sour cherry tree, down the quiet dirt lanes and out into the shouts and motorcycle roar of this clamoring border town.

He has stepped around the smoldering trash piles and the clothes drying on the bank of the Massacre River, which separates Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and hopped up onto the border bridge on his way to another day’s work. At the metal gate, he hasn’t showed a passport — or papers of any kind — but has mentioned his boss, a customs official who owns several houses, and with that he has crossed into Dajabon.

Over the years, Laflur has built a swimming pool, erected concrete walls, fixed toilets and swept the patio at the Drink Bar — the type of hard manual labor that feeds his five children and is far harder to find in his native Haiti. But his daily routine, and the livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of Haitians, has been put at risk by new immigration rules that intend to oust Haitians who do not have documentation to stay in the Dominican Republic, even those who were born there.

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