Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Celebrate this 4th with Hope for the future

by Corbyn Small
July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is adopted and the United States proclaimed its sovereignty from Great Britain. Fifteen years later the First Amendment declares the importance of securing civil liberties such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment is passed, stating, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude... shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” We continue our blogging celebration of  freedom parade through the week leading up to the 4th of July, and pause the celebration for a moment of consideration for two countries that Plant With Purpose works with in the Caribbean.
Basic Freedoms for Haiti and the Dominican Republic Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department released the 2009 Trafficking in Persons report. Human Trafficking is something thought by most to be a thing of the past, and you may never have heard of such a report. In fact, human trafficking is considered to be the fastest growing criminal industry in the world and an estimated $32 billion dollars a year are collected in revenue. The Trafficking in Persons report has been generated by the U.S. State Department for the last nine years and outlines the efforts, attempts, successes and failures of international governments' abilities to react and stop human trafficking in their respective nations.  Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, remains a special case for the fourth year in a row and has been unable to be included in the report due to governmental instability. Believe it or not, in Haiti there are still forms of human trafficking that aren’t illegal. Because of political instability there has not been policy or law making in Haiti to even provide avenues to prosecute people who are trafficking Haitian men, women, and children into the Dominican Republic, the United States, Bahamas and other nations in the Caribbean. Its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, remains on the Tier 2 watch list, which means they do not meet minimum the requirements of the Trafficking Victims Protection Acts and that it "is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.” Forced labor is possibly the most common form of trafficking between Haiti and the DR due to the racial prejudices that exist between the Dominicans and the Haitians. The Haitians are considered by many Dominicans as inferior because of their darker skin and the extent of poverty in Haiti versus the Dominican Republic. Many Haitians seek economic opportunity by putting themselves at risk and illegally crossing the border into the Dominican Republic where the farmlands are still producing crops. This is merely an introduction to the longstanding rivalry between the two countries that has created a harbouring center for people to be taken advantage of. (To learn more about the history and cultures of the two countries, read on in this report titled "Illegal People" by Human Rights Watch).
Human trafficking and involuntary servitude is something that neither my generation, my parent's, or my grandparent’s generation have witnessed here in the United States of America because of  our nation’s steps to ensure that people are treated as equals(not to say that the U.S. has a clean slate; there are many places where it still exists right here in the U.S.). 
While we celebrate our freedom and the people who committed their lives to providing us with the liberties we have today, this Independence Day let us stop and remember the people all over the world who have not had the chance to be treated as an equal but instead are marginalized because of race, ethnicity, or social status. Let’s remember that regardless of nationality, we have all been created as equals and all deserve one of the most basic human rights, freedom. 
I can speak of these things with hope for the future as Plant With Purpose does everything we can to restore relationships between countries and people. Whether it be our transborder project at the Haitian and Dominican border, or helping Burmese hill tribe refugees living in Thailand receive Thai citizenship, Plant With Purpose is working as a voice for those who have none.

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