How a Crackdown on Haitians Lifted a Dominican Leader’s Re-Election Bid

The Dominican Republic is deporting tens of thousands of Haitians this year, despite pleas from the United Nations to stop as they flee gang-fueled lawlessness. The Dominican president, Luis Abinader, is going even further, building a border wall between the two countries that share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

As Dominican voters head to the polls on Sunday in a general election, the immigration crackdown, along with an anticorruption drive and growth in tourism, has made Mr. Abinader, who is seeking a second term, the clear front-runner.

The election showcases how the Dominican Republic, with one of Latin America’s best-performing economies, stands apart from other countries in the region, where many leaders who rose to power in the same period as Mr. Abinader are dogged by dismal approval ratings.

Mr. Abinader’s use of contentious restrictions on Haitian migrants also underscores an iron-fisted approach to migration that makes the Dominican Republic something of an outlier in the region.

“This is definitely not a ‘change’ election as many others have recently been in Latin America,” said Michael Shifter, a senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based research organization.

Credible polls indicate that a solid majority of Dominicans approve of the tenure of Mr. Abinader, 56, a market-friendly former executive in the tourism industry.

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