Getting Out the Haitian Vote After Trump’s Comments

Times Square, Jan. 15, 2018 (Photo by Garry Pierre-Pierre via The Haitian Times)

On Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Day, thousands condemned President Donald Trump’s comments days earlier characterizing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries.” This came nearly two months after his administration announced the end of temporary protected status (TPS) for Haitians and three weeks after the president reportedly said that Haitians “all have AIDS.” Then, on Jan. 17, the Department of Homeland Security said Haitians would no longer be eligible for the H-2A and H-2B visas for temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers.

Haitians in New York are seeking to turn the growing frustration and anger resulting from these recent events into votes, reports Vania Andre in The Haitian Times.

According to the Census, 500,000 Black residents of voting age live in the 5th (Queens, Nassau County), 9th (Brooklyn) and 17th (Rockland County, Westchester County) Congressional districts in New York. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that more than 100,000 were born in Haiti. The official number, however, is likely higher, says Queens community organizer Joseph Marthone, who once ran in the 5th Congressional District. One way to get a more accurate number? By registering to vote, he said.

The U.S. government counts those who were born in Haiti. However, there’s a significant number of second- and third-generation Haitian Americans, who, despite being born in the U.S., identify culturally as Haitian and align themselves with the issues that Haitian immigrants care for.

“We have an idea,” Marthone said of the numbers, “but we just don’t know.”

One solution he proposed for the problem is a push for U.S.-born and naturalized citizens to register to vote and keeping track of those registrations in a nonpartisan fashion.

“If [the community] had a sense of how much power they have, and the potential that it wields, we could change the face of the [Democratic] party,” said Marthone.

According to community organizer Farah Louis, who serves as the director of community outreach for Council member Jumaane Williams:

(…) the most important thing is making sure those here with temporary status identify their legal options and those who are naturalized register to vote. During the rally, she called on millennials in the Haitian community to step up, lead, and pave a way to victory at the polls come midterm elections.

“Find the Toussaint L’Ouverture in you,” she bellowed from the stage, referencing one of Haiti’s founding fathers.

For more on the Times Square protest and an earlier event where Haitian professionals spoke of the “need to enhance the opportunity to cast our vote,” go to The Haitian Times.

Members of the community marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 19 denouncing Trump’s comments. Read about the rally and see photos at Bklyner.

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