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New York

Accessing aid for undocumented frustrates Haitian community leaders

By Sam Bojarski

Two weeks after leaders of some Haitian community organizations in New York City penned a letter to some elected officials and city agency officials detailing the dire need for cash assistance for undocumented Haitians, they have yet to to get an answer. 

While the letter was addressed to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), elected officials and other city offices, “from our end at Diaspora, we have only heard from the Public Advocate’s office,” said Carine Jocelyn, chief executive officer of Diaspora Community Services, a social services agency based in Brooklyn. 

The Haitian Times reported on May 21 that Haitian-led CBOs were largely being left out of conversations concerning the allocation of a $20 million fund to provide cash assistance for New York City’s undocumented workers. Open Society Foundations, a nonprofit, pledged the money, which MOIA has worked to distribute through CBOs. While some Haitian-led CBOs have received allocations, Jocelyn in particular has been less than satisfied about the response from elected officials thus far. One elected official, state assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, has vocalized her own frustrations with the allocation process. 

The May 13 Haitian community joint letter was addressed to MOIA Commissioner Bitta Mostofi and signed by five Haitian-led CBOs: Diaspora Community Services, Haitian Americans United for Progress (HAUP), Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees and Haitian-American Community Coalition. It was also shared with Haitian elected officials at the local and state levels, many of whom also have large Haitian constituencies. 

In an interview, Jocelyn acknowledged the economic and budgetary challenges that the spread of coronavirus has posed for leaders at the city and state levels. But she also expressed disappointment at the lack of support from elected officials, many of whom pride themselves on being Haitian. 

“How did they prioritize direct services for the Haitian community? How did they advocate to make sure that the Haitian community was highlighted or included as part of the priority population?” Jocelyn asked rhetorically. 

The elected officials who received the joint letter included New York City councilmembers Farah Louis (D-45) and Mathieu Eugene (D-40), as well as state assembly members Rodneyse Bichotte (D-42), Mathylde Frontus (D-46), Michaelle Solages (D-22), Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-11) and Clyde Vanel (D-33). 

The office of Rodneyse Bichotte was the only one to return the Haitian Times’ request for comment before the deadline. Bichotte’s communications director denied the claim that the assemblywoman did not advocate for Haitian-led CBOs and the undocumented.

“Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte has played a critical role in advocating for the inclusion of Haitian community organizations in the $20 million Open Society Foundation (OSF) funding. Over half a million Haitian-Americans live in New York City, many in her district. Last month, she met with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) Commissioner, Bitta Mostofi, and with (the) Mayor’s Fund Director of Programs & Policy, Leah Prestamo twice to discuss the OSF funds, her frustration with the selection process, and to recommend a number of Haitian organizations be considered for funding,” Sabrina Rezzy, director of communications and legislation for the Office of Rodneyse Bichotte, said in an email. 

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Sam Bojarski

Sam Bojarski

Sam Bojarski has been covering Haiti and its diaspora for The Haitian Times since 2018. He is currently covering New York's Haitian community as a Report for America corps member.
Sam Bojarski
Jun. 06, 2020