A website featuring a semester-long, in-depth foreign reporting project on immigration issues in the Dominican Republic launched last week, showcasing the work of 17 students of the Walter Cronkite School.
Funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the project, now available on the website titled “Stateless in the Dominican Republic,” gave Cronkite students a foreign reporting opportunity to cover immigration issues in the Dominican Republic and resulted in a comprehensive source of information that uncovered the harsh realities of the country’s “stateless” persons — migrants, mostly of Haitian descent, who have been denied birthright citizenship.
Reporters spent the first half of the spring 2011 semester researching the country’s immigration issues before flying to the capital city of Santo Domingo in March during spring break. They had eight days to collect interviews, take photographs and shoot video for multimedia packages that addressed topics such as the denial of health care, the struggle for work and the fight for citizenship.
More than a dozen stories and a 30-minute documentary were produced by the class.
Students said they faced uncooperative government agencies while reporting and the challenge of conducting interviews through translators.
“When you are doing foreign reporting, you have to plan some interviews in advance, but you have to be very flexible,” said graduate student Bastien Inzaurralde, who speaks French, Spanish and English fluently. “You have to be aware that once you hit the ground, everything could fall apart.”
Conflict on the island of Hispaniola originally arose in 2004, when the Dominican government outlawed birthright citizenship — despite being born in the Dominican Republic, children of “people in transit” or illegal immigrants were no longer considered legal citizens.
This issue hits close to home in Arizona and other places, students said. H.R.140: Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 would eliminate birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
“Even the richest country in the world does not know how to deal with this issue,” said Josh Armstrong, a graduate student who participated in the project.
Cronkite professors Rick Rodriguez and Jason Manning, who directed the project, are currently working on publishing the piece in other media outlets, and have already started planning the next overseas project for the spring 2012 Depth Reporting class.
“This set the standard and the standard is high,” Manning said.
One story written by recent graduate Lauren Gilger was published in the Washington Post and on the front page of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting’s website on Monday.
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation was started in 1996 with a goal to improve the quality of life for people in impoverished conflict and post-conflict regions of Africa and Central America. The foundation finances the Cronkite School’s in-depth reporting efforts to cover immigration and border issues in these regions.
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Editor’s note: Downtown Devil managing editors Stephanie Snyder and Dustin Volz both were part of the reporting class that reported from the Dominican Republic.