Letters to the Editor, Op-eds, Politics

Haitians got played in 2016, let’s correct our mistake in 2020

By Johnny Celestin

Mr. Celestin is co-president of Ayisyen Pou Biden, a group of Haitian-American volunteers working to elect Democratic nominee Joe Biden.


Ayisyen pou Biden Haitians
The author, Johnny Celestin, speaks during an Ayisyen Pou Biden virtual community town hall in September. Photo by: Macollvie J. Neel

In the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump visited Little Haiti in Miami at the invitation of Mr. Bernard Sansaricq to talk about how a Trump administration would tackle the issues of importance to the Haitian-American community.  At the time, Trump and opponent Hillary Clinton both visited the Haitian community because they recognized not only the importance of Florida as a must-win state, but also the growing influence of the Haitian-American electorate.

Trump praised the Haitian community and claimed that he would be our community’s “greatest champion.” He won Florida by 112,911 votes, or 1.19 percent.  

Two years later, Mr. Sansaricq, a Republican, penned an-open letter repudiating the Trump administration.  He stated that President Trump’s ambassador to Haiti “has done everything possible to make Haiti’s political climate HELL. The gangs now have full control of the country and for three and a half years under Trump’s presidency the situation has worsened both politically and economically – corruption is the law all over the land – insecurity is a thousand-fold worse than three and a half years ago. Haiti, which was once the Pearl of the Caribbean, is now worse than Somalia.”

Indeed, only two years after promising to be our “greatest champion,” he claimed that Haitian immigrants to the U.S. “all have AIDS.” In 2017, he cancelled TPS designation for Haiti, one of his duly designated “sh–hole” countries.

As the Haitian proverb goes “Kay koule twonpe solèy, men li pa twonpe lapli!”  We have seen President Trump in action and should expect things to get worse if he is reelected.  It is now undeniable that President Trump’s strategy is to foment racial division and wink at discrimination against us and other minority communities.  His administration is in court, actively working to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  If reelected and with a right leaning Supreme Court, he will succeed in eliminating Obamacare and return to Haiti the more 50,000 Haitians who have received TPS. 

We know that it will take time to undo the harm caused by the current administration.  However, to put our country back on the right track requires electing VP Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. 

As the pandemic continues to take its toll on families and jobs, it has laid bare the country’s deep and structural inequalities.  If elected, President Biden will immediately work on a recovery package that provides funds to states and much needed support to working families.  He will invest in small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy and support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 so working families can live dignified lives.  

A President Biden will reinforce the Affordable Care Act and introduce a new Medicare-like public option.  He will rescind President Trump’s executive order, which has affected thousands of Haitians and other immigrants, and scrap the wealth test the Trump administration has proposed for prospective immigrants.  

Above all, a Biden-Harris administration will bring honesty back to the White House and offer a vision to America that is aligned with our core values. As President Abraham Lincoln did, the Biden-Harris team will work to restore “our bonds of affection” and help us reconnect with the “better angels of our nature.”

In 2016, the Haitian community got played by a charlatan who promised to be our champion, but became our community’s worst nightmare.  This time, we must show that we learned from that mistake.  

As Haitians, we launched the only successful slave-led revolution, which resulted in the first free black Republic.  We Haitian-Americans can, once again, stand against tyranny and fight for freedom and human dignity.  Though sadly this time, our stand will be against a President whom we mistakenly helped to elect to office. 

Haitian Americans must stand shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers from the Caribbean and Central-America to say no to tyranny.  Together, we have the numbers to make the difference!  Together we can help to bring decency back to the White House. 

As the Haitian motto appropriately reminds us: Inite se fòs / L’Union fait la force (“Unity Makes Strength”). 

Oct. 28, 2020

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