By Larisa Karr and Sam Bojarski
President Donald Trump last campaigned in Little Haiti as a candidate in September 2016, when he pledged to be the “greatest champion” of Haitian-American voters.
Now — with a slew of opinion polls showing Trump trailing in most states, after calling Haiti a “s–thole” and issuing controversial immigration orders, and with his COVID-19 diagnosis grounding his travel plans — it appears doubtful Trump will make any substantial overtures to Haitian-American voters.
Still, a handful of Haitian-Americans say they will support the president. Calling on religion and family values as their key reasons to vote, these conservative movement supporters also bring up the Democrats taking Black voters for granted, esoteric footage from decades ago, and debunked fringe theories to explain their presidential pick.
For Sendra Dorcé, who runs a “Haitians for Trump” Facebook page, her main reason for supporting Trump is what she calls the Democrats’ failed strategy to help rebuild Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
“If you care about Haiti, think about the earthquake in 2010 and ask if Biden can tell us where those $10 billion are,” Dorcé said. “How do you vote for a party that hijacked $10 billion from Haiti when the Haitian people barely have a place to live and food to eat?”
“Biden is the walking embodiment of the betrayal, manipulation, misused and abused, empty promises of the Democratic party toward communities of color,” said Nicolas, who also works with Black Voices for Trump. “Our skin color is all he sees and then he will drop us after the election just like Democrats always do.”
The Trump campaign did not return messages seeking comment for this article.
Trump’s record on Haitians, Haitian-Americans
As a candidate, Trump did not appeal much to Haitian-Americans to begin with because they tend to vote Demoractic.
As the president, Trump downright alienated the community after he called Haiti a “s–hole country.” He was discussing U.S. immigration policy in January 2018 when he made the remark, adding that he wanted the U.S. to accept more people from countries like Norway.
In August 2019, the Trump administration ended the Haitian Family Reunification Program, which allowed Haitians to join family members in the U.S. waiting for a green card.
In 2020, between February and June, roughly 350 flights traveled to Latin America and the Caribbean to deport people, the research firm CEPR found. Haitian deportees were among those on the flights, and many among them tested positive for COVID-19 upon disembarking in Port-au-Prince.
Dieufort Fleurissaint, a pastor with Haitian-Americans United in Boston, is among those left reeling by Trump’s actions.
“He betrayed us when he implemented so many adverse measures, to the detriment of our families here with the massive deportation that we have seen since the beginning of the year, despite COVID-19,” Fleurissant said. “Haitians had hoped that he would not only keep TPS in place, but provide a path for TPS holders to eventually receive permanent residency.”
A tale of two campaigns
Dorcé, an advisory firm owner, highlighted the Trump campaign’s efforts in Haitian churches as a key part of recent outreach to the Haitian-American community.
“Lara Trump was just in Miami and they had a gathering with pastors from Haiti, New York, and Miami,” said Dorcé, referring to Trump’s daughter-in-law and adviser. “That’s how they’re trying to reach the community, because they know that Haitians are very religious and it’s through the church medium that they can access the most Haitian voters.”
On the Democrat side, Biden’s campaign launched a voter engagement campaign and six-figure media blitz targeting Haitian-Americans, particularly those in battleground Florida. A grassroots movement called Ayisyen Pou Biden, Creole for “Haitians for Biden,” organized appearances featuring the two most senior Haitian-Americans on his campaign.
On Monday, Biden visited Little Haiti in Miami. He promised to give Haitians an “event shot” and urged them to vote Democratic because their numbers can swing the election his way.
Ahead of Biden’s visit, the campaign released a list of top priorities to address U.S. foreign policy toward Haiti, immigration and other domestic issues important to Haitian-Americans.
“The policies are also rooted in ensuring that Haitians are treated with dignity and have a fair shot at the American dream,” said Karen Andre, senior advisor to Biden’s Florida Campaign. “They are part of the fabric of America, and it’s our job to hear them and make sure that their priorities are reflected in our policies.”