Photos and words by Shelby Wolfe
When I arrived yesterday at Bateye Palave, a slum dominantly inhabited by Haitian migrants just east of the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, children begged me to take their photo. They posed for pictures and laughed when they saw themselves on the small LCD screen of my camera.
One little girl took my hand and guided me to where they play. I watched as the children played on the slide, swing set, and some old tires and I couldn’t help but think of the uncertainty of their futures. These children are just some of the stateless faces that have been affected by the nation’s ruling that put the lives of Dominicans of Haitian descent into limbo.
On Sept. 23, 2013, the Dominican Republic’s court passed a law declaring that children of undocumented Haitian migrants – even those who were born and raised in the Dominican – have been stripped of their citizenship. For decades, Haitians were brought over to the Dominican Republic to cut cane for unlivable wages. Even though sugar cane is not harvested as often today, most of these plantations are still occupied by Haitians, but have become shantytowns known as bateyes (buh-TAYZ).
With this law in place, these people have been denied many basic human rights, as well as a sense of belonging. I hope to learn more throughout our stay about the issue of citizenship and how it affects individuals and their families.