By Larisa Karr
As Nov. 3 looms, Haitian-Americans are planning to vote in droves in an election that may prove more pivotal than ever for the rights of immigrants and resources available to their communities. Voters said in addition to the year’s hot-button issues, fear of a Trump Administration for another term also motivates them.
“We need to give [Joe Biden] a chance to see where he’s going to take the country because we have had four years experience with Trump already,” said Liphage LaGuerre, a handyman in Miami. “I’m interested to see if it might be different because Trump has been acting a little crazy.”
By and large, Haitian-American voters in Florida and New York say they are energized and ready to vote for the Democratic ticket, their traditional party. Uncertainty surrounding a slew of issues — immigration, healthcare, the economy — that will impact their lives for years is pushing them to participate in the national election, they said. As does the Trump factor.
“This election is very important because it could change America for the next 40 years,” said musician Yves “Fanfan” Joseph, of Spring Valley, New York. “I will definitely support Biden as Trump is driving this country towards some sort of dictatorship.”
Many said they refuse to buy into President Donald Trump’s disparagement of vote-by-mail efforts and consider it safer than voting in person.
“It just makes sense to get your vote in as early as possible and to track it if you can,” said Sandy Dorsainvil, a Pembroke Pines, Florida resident who plans to vote for Joe Biden. “I just think [Trump’s rhetoric] is a scare tactic and it’s a little more dangerous to wait until the very day of voting.”
For many, the fate of immigration policy, specifically that of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for over 50,000 Haitians, weighs heavily on their minds. Even though these voters are U.S. citizens, they worry about vulnerable family members and friends subject to immigration legislation, or lack thereof.
“We are not sure where we’re going with TPS. We are not sure how things are going to proceed with public charge,” said Ginette Rows, who runs a social services organization in Huntington Station, New York. “So, there is a lot of concern with ICE and the families being deported, children being deported, even if they are sick. That will affect entire families.”
Two major cases regarding TPS are going through the courts now. Experts predict the Biden administration would protect TPS holders in both cases.
While the majority of Haitians have expressed strong support for Biden, a few do so with some reservation, saying he did not always vote in favor of their issues in the past.
“We’re willing to take a chance with Joe Biden,’” said Francesca Menes, co-host of the Miami radio show “Konekte.” “We have to be willing to push forward and push past that [prior record] and we can help.”
An even smaller contingent said they planned to vote for Trump.
Vic DeGrammont, a Republican realtor who ran unsuccessfully to represent Florida’s 20th Congressional District earlier this year, is among them. He cited an executive order to lower prescription drug prices, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and Space Force as notable Trump accomplishments.
Democrats target Haitians in ad blitz
However, Haitians tend to vote Democratic. In a recent study, Herlande Rosemond, an attorney based in Port Charlotte, Florida, found that Haitian-Americans in the Sunshine State were five times more likely to be registered with the Democratic Party than with the Republican party.
In all, 300,563 Haitian-Americans are registered to vote in Florida, according to Rosemond’s study.
With groups like Ayisyen Pou Biden, or Haitians for Biden in Creole, getting the word out in Haitian-American districts, the Democratic voters there are looking forward to November. And they are buoyed by ads targeting them in Creole and English.
On the day of the first Presidential Debate, Biden’s campaign in Florida released a barrage of advertising to air on Creole-speaking radio and in English in mainstream media. Karine Jean-Pierre, Chief of Staff for Kamala Harris, appeared on six radio stations last week discussing the major issues impacting the 272,522 Haitians in South Central Florida.
“I think he’s [Biden] giving the community a reason to vote, a reason to organize our community and that’s what the Haitian community has to continue to do,” said Jean-Pierre in a radio interview. “If we are able to vote as a block in South Florida, and Haitians come out in a big way like we know that they will, it gives you a seat at the table, it gives the community a seat at the table.”
Between the ads, Trump’s debate performance and their traditional leanings, voters said they are even more determined to put Biden in office.
“This debate was a debacle,” said Joseph, a member of the band Tabou Combo. “For the president, who has been democratically elected, to challenge the system that elected him, it’s unheard of.”
Dorsainvil, chairperson of the Haitian American Professionals Coalition, said it was disappointing to see both candidates debate like “sixth-graders running for class president.” Nonetheless, she also stands by her decision to vote Democrat.
“It solidified my opinion [to vote for Biden] because President Trump seemed unhinged and the fact that he was avoiding the serious questions so adamantly proves that he has something to hide,” she said.
Sam Bojarski contributed to this report.
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