Sixteen-year-old Jasmine is homeless along the Haiti-Dominican (D.R.) border. She hopes to return to the one place in her life that did feel like “home” - Santo Domingo, the D.R.’s capital. The problem is that her family doesn’t know where to find her, and she has no legal right to live in the D.R.
Though she spent her early childhood on the Haitian side of the border, Jasmine’s most memorable year is from her stay with her mom and older brothers in Santo Domingo. In the end, her father asked that Jasmine and her mother return to Haiti to live with him. Since that time, Jasmine regularly suffered at the hands of young men in her community and a brother, who incessantly teased and beat her. A month ago, her brother beat her so badly that she ran away from home.
MCC photo/Ted Oswald
Bleeding and shaken by the incident, Jasmine fled for the Dominican border on foot, ignoring people's’ inquisitive looks. All she wanted was to contact her older brother who still lived in the D.R. and had promised for years to send for her.
Jasmine did not succeed that day, and she now resides at a support center for unaccompanied minors in the Belladere region along the border, where she has been for one month, out of reach of her parents’ house and waiting expectantly for some word from her brothers in the D.R.
What Jasmine wants most lies out of reach, across an international border. Though her lack of Haitian identification papers makes it impossible for her to cross into the D.R. legally, she holds onto the hope of being reunited with the two people she considers “home.”
MCC photo/Ted Oswald
It only took a few minutes in early April to upend Eduard’s life. As a Haitian living in the D.R., he was the target of new, controversial immigration laws that have seen the D.R. deporting increased numbers of undocumented Haitians and even Dominicans of Haitian descent in the past year.
Even before the stricter immigration laws came into effect, it was not easy being a Haitian migrant in the D.R. Over the years, Eduard had learned to keep his head down, avoid scrutiny and work hard to make a living. He came to the D.R. with his now-deceased mother when he was very young. He hasn’t known another home besides the sleepy coastal town of Azua, where a Dominican couple took him in after his mother’s death.
Yet early one morning in April, immigration agents arrested Eduard at the market on no other grounds than the color of his skin and the suspicion that he was Haitian. Thrown in a detention center for three days without food, Eduard was then deported along with 50 others to Haiti.
Eduard doesn’t know anyone in Haiti, nor is he comfortable with the language, Haitian Creole. With an unofficial Dominican birth certificate as his only form of ID, he cannot expect to re-enter the D.R. legally, yet he says he would cross the border tomorrow if he could. He believes his friends and surrogate family know he’s been deported, and he hates that he has no way to let them know his whereabouts.
Like Jasmine, he waits with anticipation to re-enter a country that won’t have him.
You and your congregation can pray for Jasmine, Eduard, and thousands others affected by the Haitian-Dominican migration crisis. See MCC’s Days of Prayer for the Displaced.
* Names are changed and faces obscured to protect the children’s identities because a parent or guardian could not provide consent.