The Dominican Republic is building a wall on its border with Haiti to prevent illegal acts, but critics say it won’t work and that Haitians shouldn't help with the construction.
This reporting was supported by the Pulitzer Center.
The Pulitzer Center raises awareness of underreported global issues through direct support for quality journalism across all media platforms and a unique program of education and public outreach.
Here are some images of the work and workers behind the build.
ELIAS PIÑA, Dominican Republic—In this border town where one portion of a border wall is being erected, a construction worker sat calmly near the cement-making station, taking in the humid January day in the tropics.
When a Haitian Times reporter asked him in Creole if he is Haitian, the man kept staring into space. It may have been his way of saying he is, without actually saying those words, because some have criticized Haitians for taking part in the project.
Building the 240-mile border wall has been controversial since inception. As construction progresses, it continues to draw new criticisms, including towards Haitian workers trying to earn a living. Before it broke ground in February 2022, some thought the wall would be useless as a mechanism to prevent illegal migration and crimes such as drugs and arms trafficking —as the Dominican government had stated. Others think it’s sensible for two countries to put up walls if it wants.
When completed, according to the Cronkite Borderlands Project at Arizona State University, the $32 million barrier will rise 13 feet into the air and be made of 4- to 5-feet of concrete foundation, with chain link fencing as a middle layer and barbed wire on top.
Edwin Paraison, president of the Zile Foundation that advocates for friendlier relations between the two countries, said it’s ironic because many of the Haitians that would be kept out make up the labor force needed to erect the structure.
Others have told The Haitian Times the border wall might make issues worse. When ground broke in 2022, President Luis Abinader attended the ceremony, drawing criticism that he was only pursuing the barrier to control migration on the basis of anti-Haitian sentiment.
William Charpentier, coordinator at the National Coalition for Migrations and Refugees, said the wall would only increase the costs of people trafficking and weapons and organs smuggling. He also said it is part of a racial and economic strategy for the D.R. government to pay “miserable wages to migrant workers, and so they [Haitians] don’t advocate for their rights.”
Pierre Lord Kinomorsa “King Kino” Divers, an entrepreneur and musician based in the Dominican Republic, is in the latter camp of those who are for the wall.
“Haitians can’t live in Haiti and are going to their [the Dominicans] country,” Divers, a Santo Domingo resident, said in a recent interview. “If the Haitian State did its job the Dominican Republic wouldn’t have to build a wall because Haitians wouldn’t be going to the Dominican Republic.”
Regardless of the controversy, the work is moving ahead, albeit way past the nine months originally estimated for completion but perhaps in time for the 2024 elections.
During The Haitian Times’ visit in January 2023, about six Haitian and Dominican workers were making cement and twisting steel bars. Two Dominican guards stood watch.
This article was supported by the Pulitzer Center as part of The Haitian Times’ Distant Neighbors series.