The situation that many Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic are currently facing is dire. With limited opportunities, out of desperation, some people are even having to resort to searching through trash cans to find food to feed their families. Although they migrated across the border in search of widely available economic opportunities– often through the sponsorship of companies looking for cheap labor– for those who were unable to successfully apply under the Dominican government’s 2015 regularization plan, right now there are virtually no opportunities to work and feed themselves. Faced with economic restraints, many people who had been in the country legally, with tourist visas in their passport, are now almost certain to fall into illegal status in the country.
Recently, one of our coordinators in the Dominican Republic had to renew his Dominican visa in order to remain in the country legally. This process costs $200 USD. Additionally, every month he has to travel to the border and pay a $20 dollar permit in order to remain in the country as a tourist. While these sums may not seem elevated, given a lack of opportunities available to Haitian immigrants, right now obtaining these funds for many is nearly impossible.
At this point, even if they wanted to move back to Haiti, which many Haitian families do, after spending hundreds of dollars in unsuccessful attempts to apply in the Dominican government’s regularization plan, funds have been depleted, making the prospects of a move also unrealistic. Unfortunately, many families are also living under the constant threat of deportation, and they have already seen friends, neighbors and family member be picked up by immigration authorities and be deported with nothing else but the clothes on their backs. As of February 9, 2016, over 20 thousand people had been deported to Haiti, often leading to families being separated and children being left abandoned.
Many Haitian families are holding out for as long as possible, hoping that once the Dominican presidential elections take place in May the pressure from immigration authorities will subside. However, the current pressure with which undocumented Haitian immigrants have to cope has led some to hide out in their homes and only come out at night in order to rummage for food to eat.
The price for legality in the Dominican Republic may not be high, but it is a price that is unattainable for many impoverished Haitian migrants and easily leads several people toward a situation of illegality, which could mean being separated from their families at a moment’s notice.
All that these communities want is an opportunity to live freely and sustain themselves and their families. We believe this is possible. Over 5,000 Haitian immigrants currently in the Dominican Republic, many of whom are facing similar situations as the one described above, are working with us to make this a reality. A better Haiti is possible.
Please click here for more information about the Haitian Community Land Trust, what we are doing to help empower local affected communities, and how to get involved.