“…how hard it is to become a man again when one has ceased to be a man." -The Lost Steps, Alejo Carpentier
On the dusty white banks of the Étang Saumâtre lake on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border 23 year-old Sanu Bresil wades out into the bright green water of the Étang Saumâtre lake with a fish trap he fashioned from a water bottle, hoping to catch a meal. Just a week before he was forcefully removed from his village in the DR and driven an hour and half to the border by uniformed men wielding knives and machetes. The men tore up his birth certificate and loaded him onto a bus bound for the border where he was left, unable to return to the Dominican Republic.
“I’ve never been to Haiti,” Sanu, told me, “I don’t know where to go.”
In 2013 a Dominican Supreme Court ruling stripped an estimated 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship leaving them essentially stateless. Under international pressure, the Dominican government extended a regularization opportunity to those affected, as well as recent Haitian migrants, that recently ended on June 17. That process, however, is believed by many to be marred by bureaucratic requirements too difficult for the humble Haitian community to produce.
For almost a century Haitians have been brought to the Dominican Republic to work the sugarcane fields. Many of them formed labor camps called Bateyes long ago, married and had children.
These communities, which form the backbone of agricultural labor and construction work across the Dominican Republic, are now in the crosshairs of deportation and discriminatory violence. Just a week past the June 17 deadline hundreds of Haitians who were unable to register for regularization were self deporting, fleeing discrimination. Furthermore, rural communities like Sanu’s are already being visited by authorities and civilians alike seeking to eject Dominicans of Haitian descent into a land they have never known.