Every week, Nick runs past a group of early morning worshipers singing hymns in Creole at an open air church. There were about 30 faithful congregants, that is, until this month when the group dwindled to about 10. Last week, a lone man remained, lifting his voice to the Lord from behind the pulpit.Immigration Reform continues here in the DR, and several have asked about the reality on the ground. The most truthful thing we can say is that it is complicated and difficult. Global refugee figures are at their highest since WWII, and 1 in every 122 people is either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. We are unclear as to which category people being displaced by this law will fall, but the bare bones of the current immigration situation is the following.
In 2013, a Dominican court determined that although the Constitution provides citizenship as a birthright to anyone born in the DR, it would retroactively remove this right from people born between 1929 and 2010 whose parents were undocumented migrants.That means grandparent-aged people are affected (!). We newly understand that there are actually many countries that do not provide citizenship rights simply upon birth in a country (as does the US), so it may be particularly the retroactive piece that is especially harmful and condemned internationally.Many people with Haitian heritage have faced discrimination for decades, but now some find themselves stateless as the law goes into effect, having never set foot in the country to which they will be displaced.
We ourselves spent several months living here illegally 3 years ago. Despite having turned in all of our paperwork in ample time, the date by which we were legally residents was surpassed by the time the government took to process our case. It is hard to imagine then, that the DR could accomplish processing ~260,000 documents within a recent 150 day window granted to help those affected. While we were here illegally, we were not all that worried. We can only assume that the privilege of coming from the US, instead of Haiti, along with the color of our skin were part of why there was very little danger of being deported. Under today’s laws, we still get by without harassment. On Sundays, police officers with rifles routinely stop us on our way to church, but not once have they asked for our documents.
Meanwhile, our darker skinned brothers and sisters face intense profiling. Potential consequences to not having documents have for a long time included things like difficulty utilizing health insurance, or obtaining entrance to education at all levels. Hardship varies widely- we know some kids who enter school without papers, and others who are blocked.With the current law, the new reality includes deportation, often without one’s belongings (helpful video). Please keep the DR, Haiti, and displaced people everywhere in your prayers and communications to your politicians.
Health Development work continues in bursts of project completion during these summer months. Nick continues planning a continuing education conference, Laurie carries on with the University’s research committee, and Nick is preparing to teach again in the fall (PT dept, top pic). We were invited to give our family testimony at a church’s kind celebration of DR missionaries in May, and finished an online training course on “Whole Person Care.” We are super excited that the new physical therapy professional organization (below) is now in a position to begin work on a physical therapy practice act, the support of which was one of our initial ministry goals. The eventual formation of a law binding physical therapists to certain levels of quality and education has the potential to protect the public in many ways, including improving health care. We are praying hard that all parties will come together agreeably to move forward on this document that can affect long term wellness.
Family life. We celebrated 4 years in the DR with a 3 night vacation in May, hosted by
Christian Hospitality Network. We saw for the first time the beaches of the famed eastern side of the island that you all see in commercials- wow! At 15mos, Daniel continues to delight us with smiles, high fives, waving and frequent applauding at any small inspiration. Better sleep at night hasn’t hurt either! Nick completed his 5th ultramarathon (50k) on trails last week. Lastly, “David” & “Simon” (pic above) continue to drop by daily for food, and the hopeful plan is that they will actually attend school in the fall!