This letter features reporting from "Federal Agents Investigate Sugar Exporter Over Allegations of Forced Labor" by Sandy Tolan and Michael Montgomery

Dear Mayor Muriel Bowser, 

In a story published in Mother Jones, by Sandy Tolan and Michael Montgomery, the grim reality of labor exploitation and discrimination against Haitian laborers in the Dominican Republic is exposed. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a specialized U.S. department focusing on investigating transnational crime and threats, uncovered evidence of labor exploitation. Their inquiry revealed that the Central Romana Corp., a prominent U.S. sugar exporter based in the Dominican Republic, had been exploiting Haitian laborers through substandard living conditions, inadequate healthcare, low wages, chronic debt, and intimidation by the company's armed security force. This story reveals the pressing global issue of labor exploitation and the need for comprehensive solutions to address these injustices.

As a Dominican high schooler and a member of the Black community, the issue of labor exploitation and discrimination against Haitian laborers in the Dominican Republic profoundly resonates with me and my community. The Dominican Republic is not only my birthplace but also where many of my childhood friends and family reside. This issue hits close to home, as it highlights the unfair treatment of workers within my home country. It's disheartening to know that some of my fellow Dominicans are enacting these cruel labor systems, understanding the historical effects of racial class systems that our ancestors were subject to. It emphasizes the importance of unity and solidarity between Dominicans and Haitians to ensure that such injustices are not tolerated within the community.

Although not on the same scale, the unfair wages given to the Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic can also be shown in the low incomes of minority communities in Washington, D.C. A report from ZIPPIA shows that Latinx employees in Washington make about $36,000 less than the average salary in Washington D.C in 2023. This wage gap creates a concerning parallel to the issues faced by Haitian laborers in the Dominican Republic. It highlights the pressing need for action on both local and international fronts. While these problems may seem worlds apart, they share a common root cause: systemic discrimination driven by economic disparities, racial bias, and a lack of proper government regulations.

In addressing the issue of low incomes for minority communities in Washington D.C., I urge you, Mayor Bowser, to consider comprehensive solutions to help lessen the income gap and promote equality within our diverse city. One crucial step would be to implement policies to raise the minimum wage to ensure a decent standard of living for all residents, regardless of their ethnic or racial background. Additionally, investing in affordable housing initiatives and community development programs can provide much-needed support to minority communities, helping them access better opportunities and break the cycle of continuous poverty. 

I hope Washington, D.C. can serve as an example of a city where every resident, regardless of their racial or ethnic background, have an equal opportunity to thrive. By addressing the issues faced by minority communities and implementing these solutions, we can progress toward a more just and equal future for all residents. Thank you for your attention to this critical matter, and I look forward to seeing positive changes for our city and its diverse population.


Miqueas E. Ramirez De La Rosa

Miqueas Ramirez De La Rosa, an 11th-grade scholar at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C., comes from the Dominican Republic, having moved to the United States at 5. He is a passionate reader and writer, finding a lot of joy in the world of literature. However, amid his intellectual pursuits, he cherishes moments of shared connection, placing immense value on quality time with loved ones. His enthusiasm for addressing systemic racism and combatting labor exploitation extends beyond borders, with a keen eye for critiquing issues in his home country. Miqueas firmly advocates that no corner of the world should tolerate labor exploitation, emphasizing the need for urgent awareness and action.

Read more winning entries from the 2023 Local Letters for Global Change contest!