Noam Chomsky once said “the more you can increase fear of immigrants and aliens, the more you control all of the people,” this quote elucidates that immigrants can be seen as a negative stereotype that fosters people’s ignorance towards immigrants and thus has them fear what they don’t know. Today was immigration day. We traveled to the Batey Libertad and learned a lot of the history and personal stories of the Haitian people residing there. Just to clarify, a batey is a place that historically housed migrant Haitians to work in sugar cane farms, which has most recently changed to rice farms. We met Emma Compton, a very passionate director of YSPANIOLA–a non-profit group that aims to foster growth and education for impoverished migrants. The YSPANIOLA members were interactive and started out with a fun, energetic game to get us in the mood. We were assigned to a host family where we asked them questions, found out more about how they live, gained a first-person perspective and ate a savory meal. Afterwards, we toured the batey and delved into its historical and cultural context. We listened to a few stories from some of the residents of the batey making us empathetic to how unfair immigration laws can affect a person’s life. We learned how immigration laws can strip a person of their own identity because of the fear implanted by the government. I found it surprising how a constitutional amendment makes it possible for Dominican citizens to be stripped of their citizenship because they are of Haitian descent.
Being leader of the day was a memorable experience. I really valued the compassion and support that everyone gave me because, honestly, I was a bit scared to be leader and didn’t think I could fill the shoes mainly because I tend not to speak out. Nevertheless, I challenged myself to speak out in order to unify our glimpsers and I feel proud of myself. There is a lot to remember as leader of the day and it can be hard to calibrate your leadership role and to remember you are part of the group.
Overall, today was a day filled with knowledge and empathy. It was a long and busy day but we all managed through and enjoyed the day for what it was worth. I know a lot of the glimpsers enjoyed reading and playing games with the children. It is ironic how when we first got off the bus at the batey we were discouraged by the heat and area but at the end we were reluctant to get back on the bus because of all the friends we made with YSPANIOLA and the children. Immigration can only be as bad as the fear and prejudice placed on those who immigrate and people should not be stripped of their identity, land or family.