It doesn't rain heavily in Constanza, but the fog is often so thick that driving up the mountain region's roads is a dangerous affair that has taken many lives. It was the region's impenetrability which helped preserve what are now critically-endangered drainage basins, but the devastating 2010 earthquake which leveled most of Haiti led to a large immigration crisis on the island of Hispaniola, with desperate Haitian migrants settling in clandestinely-constructed homes in Dominican forests, where food and clean water are still abundant.
|Shack of mass destruction. Twitter|
While deforestation and the subsequent unemployment, drought, and extreme poverty has led to many Dominican citizens moving to shanty towns in the periphery of Santiago and Santo Domingo, the country's two largest cities, vast numbers of Haitian nationals have illegally crossed the border, moving through the country's thick forests, and eventually settling deep in the mountains, where immigration officials are unlikely to act due to the bad press that raiding shacks and destroying poor people's homes generates.
The renowned Dominican engineer Osiris de Leon recently decried on his Twitter page the grave threat which faces the Dominican Republic's drainage basins, highlighting the destruction which has set the stage for the ecological collapse of yet another nation.
|A dying forest. Twitter|
According to Mr. de Leon, what was once a pristine national forest, from where even wealthy Dominicans were expelled, is now a nearly-barren land due to government inaction in deporting Haitian nationals who dig unregulated wells and engage in intensive, unsustainable farming practices complemented by the cutting of old-growth trees for charcoal.
A 2013 decision by the top Constitutional Tribunal in the Dominican Republic drew international condemnation after clarifying that the children of undocumented foreigners were not Dominican citizens, affecting individuals from dozens of countries.
Although the 2013 citizenship decision was seen by many as something that would guarantee the continuation of the Dominican Republic as a sovereign state with healthy forests, the opposite seems to have taken place, with the government freely handing out residence permits to anyone claiming to have been born on Dominican soil.
Although there were fears that "mass deportations" would follow the enforcement period established by the Constitutional Tribunal, the Dominican government instead spent its immigration funds on constructing expensive biometrics centers throughout the country, even in remote areas, so that individuals alleging birth on Dominican soil could be provided with a free path towards citizenship.
Dominican people are proud of their African ancestry, which made accusations of racism in the wake of the 2013 citizenship clarification especially painful for many of the US-educated technocrats currently in power in the Dominican Republic. The 2013 decision did not solely affect Haitians nor was it particularly directed at them, and it currently threatens to mostly affect Venezuelans, who are migrating to the Dominican Republic in large numbers due to the economic crisis in the Bolivarian Republic.
While Venezuelans make their way to the Dominican Republic, Haitians are joining an exodus from Brazil that has seen people stream up Central America towards the United States, with shelters in Tijuana currently under strain and several South American nations closing their doors to Haitian nationals who could once enter without visas.
|Cost: 3 million lives. Twitter|
Although the Dominican Republic is no longer accused of racism by the global media on baseless grounds as much as it once was, the fear now is that the collapse of the country's rivers and water supply could lead to a full-blown conflict on the island of Hispaniola.
There's perhaps a few hundred undocumented Haitians irregularly camped out in Constanza's Valle Nuevo; people who now have a much better life than they did in Haiti, but at what cost?