You might remember last year when our brothers and sisters down in the Dominican Republic suddenly found themselves under the international spotlight, and not for their world-renowned merengueros. In fact, it was on account of a 2013 immigration law that effectively left hundreds of thousands of Haitian migrants and their Dominican-born children stateless in an act that was widely condemned for its overt racism. From there, things only got more heated when many Dominicans bristled under the international pressure and vigilante groups felt emboldened to take the laws into their own hands.
Luckily things have calmed down a bit since then, and the Dominican government has acquiesced to the demands of human rights advocates by passing a more humanitarian Naturalization Law — though its implementation continues to be fraught with problems. Certainly we can thank some of the more high-profile champions of the cause like Junot Diaz and even New York mayor Bill DeBlasio for an important assist, but up to now little attention has been paid to the brave Haitian-Dominican activists who all but risked their lives on the ground to demand just treatment.
A short film from Minority Rights Group International (MRG) titled Our Lives in Transit documents some of the grassroots efforts of Haitian migrants, Dominicans of Haitian descent, and other allies in their battle for solidarity and human rights in the midst of this racially charged atmosphere. The film primarily profiles the efforts of a Dominican lawyer of partial Haitian descent named Rosa Iris Diendomi, who fights tirelessly for the rights of the Dominican Republic’s most vulnerable residents.
Part of a multimedia story that lays bare the plight of DR’s so-called “legal ghosts” — victims of a “civil death” due to their stateless status — Our Lives in Transit features interviews and archival material along with beautifully photographed portraits of individuals profiled in the project. By providing a historical background to Haitian migrant labor in DR as well as some important context regarding recent laws passed to normalize an increasingly precarious immigration situation, the film puts a human face on the ongoing struggle for dignity in DR.