Dominican Republic: Haitians living on the margins

This is the first post of Living on the Margins: Haitians in the Dominican Republic. There are two of us reporting – I'm Stephanie Hanes, a print reporter; looking over my shoulder at the screen is Steve Sapienza, a video journalist. We've collaborated before with the Pulitzer Center.

We are at the end of our second day in Santo Domingo, the bustling capital of the Dominican Republic, where we have come to look at the situation of Haitians living here. Because of the earthquake, there has been a lot of international attention on Haiti. But the predicament of the estimated one million Haitians living in this country has been far less covered.

Haitians have long provided cheap labor in the Dominican Republic. They fueled the sugar industry here, and more recently the tourism and construction boom. Now, Haitians and their descendants living in the Dominican Republic encounter racial discrimination, exploitation, poverty and, in some areas, the worst HIV infection rates in the hemisphere. Many are essentially stateless – a situation worsened by the country's new constitution.

This situation will become increasingly important in the coming months. Given the dire situation in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, everyone we've talked with speculates that more Haitians will cross the border.

Anyhow – that's the summary of what we're doing here.

Next up: a post on a historic meeting between government officials and marginalized Dominican communities fighting HIV. (Haitians aren't the only discriminated against group here struggling against HIV.)