The rule of law helps to protect all citizens of a country, but if culturally there is no respect for a minority group, people will find unlimited ways to marginalize them.
I met with Centro Bonó in the Dominican Republic and they are working very closely with refugees and undocumented immigrants from Haiti. They are alarmed by the increase of immigrants that are trapped into forced labor.
A few important things to understand:
- The fight to end slavery in the DR is becoming more challenging. It used to be focused on the sugar plantations, but currently they are finding many cases of forced labor in the construction of homes. The most common methodology to take advantage of the workers is similar to what happens in many countries, including in the United States: After months of work, when they are supposed to get their pay check, the contractors call immigration officers and the workers get deported without receiving any pay.
- The children of Haitian immigrants born in the DR sometimes do not even get recognized as DR citizens - even though the law requires it - so they are constantly vulnerable because the government does not want to take care of them.
- Workers from Bonó Center are also discriminated against. The DR has discriminated against Haitians for a very long time, and the hate is so engrained into the culture that human rights workers may encounter discrimination from their own families if their abolitionist work support Haitians.
The law in the DR does not accept slavery, it does require that every person born in their soil be considered a DR citizen, and does recognize the dignity of all human beings. However, the marginalizing status quo creates conditions of slavery. These structures will be impossible to change unless people on the frontlines are respected and protected.
I find it extremely important to re-vindicate all abolitionists in the DR. All leaders of the country (educational, governmental, spiritual, legal, athletes, artists, and so on) need to get together and say to the masses that slavery is not ok, and praise the people working to re-abolish slavery. In the mean time, Centro Bonó has a spiritual advisor helping their staff to deal with marginalization from their own community.