The first thing that I want to do when I arrive in Dajabón, one of the Dominican Republic’s border towns with Haiti, is find a good place to eat. After all, it is a five-hour bus ride from the capital of Santo Domingo, through a lush, mountainous landscape with many small towns, all with baseball fields on their edges. As soon as I get off the bus it’s obvious that I’m in borderlands again. There is the roar of a cumbersome green helicopter that will circle the town for hours. A mere three blocks away is Haiti, a nation where more than nine million people earn less than a dollar per day. Between the spot where I step off the bus and Haiti is the Massacre River, representing the border that divides the island of Hispaniola into two countries.
This is the Dajabón that is in one of the key places in charge of policing the Dominican border with Haiti. And that is why I am here, to learn more about the Dominican Republic’s border police. While Dajabón is more than 1,000 miles from Miami, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security have a presence of sorts there. The U.S. government has helped to fund the Dominican border policing agency and provides it with training. This speaks to Dajabón’s strategic location within something that is larger and more complex than the United States proper but is part of its sphere of interests and influence, and thus equally “vulnerable.” It is the place that the United States has long considered its “backyard.”