HaitianImmigration News

Fort Lauderdale: A Haitian American Feels Guilty for Not Being Able to Vote Obama

Wenda Desauguste

Wenda Desauguste outside a polling site in South Florida.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Macollvie Jean-Francois, Sun Sentinel reporter.

Something had to be done with those boys. As their parents voted inside a local church, the boys, about seven of them, ran around the parking lot and in an adjacent lot — impatient.

Wenda Desauguste, 25 and a football coach, stepped up. Within minutes, the boys were on the ground doing push-ups, spinning wheels and other exercises.

Desauguste said she and four other friends came to the church, at North Andrews Avenue and Northeast 13th Street, to vote — some of them for the first time.

“Who are we supporting, guys?” she asked the boys.

“Obama, Obama,” they said, puffing, while they continued with their exercises.

By then, the boys were sweating. The sun had burst through by mid-afternoon, after a temperate morning, and it now beat down on the few voters waiting outside the polling location.

Nelson Garache, 32, and Joseph Beautelus, 48, were also waiting there.

Staying active outside the polling site

Staying active outside the polling site

Garache said he was visiting a friend, from Haiti, and was surprised by how calmly the day was going. It’s a far cry from Haiti’s usually chaotic, sometimes violent, election days.

“Here, it seems that even though there are two parties, everyone is working to make the country better,” Garache said. “The country is first. In Haiti, it’s their pockets they put first.”

Beautelus, of Fort Lauderdale, was trying to make up for not becoming a U.S. citizen in time to vote, though he’s been a documented resident for years.

Since his wife is already an American citizen, today he drove her to the poll and took her home. Then he came back to give a ride to a young woman who came to the wrong polling location.

Beautelus said he also called the Obama campaign to offer the cars from his livery cab business to help take people to the polls. He said he hadn’t heard from them as of early afternoon.

“I feel so guilty,” Beautelus said. “It’s negligence on my part that’s causing Obama to lose my vote. In this election, I really should have participated.”

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Feet in Two Worlds brings the work of immigrant and ethnic media journalists from communities across the U.S. to public radio and the web. Since 2005, this award-winning project has expanded the diversity of voices and stories on public radio by presenting the work of journalists representing a broad spectrum of immigrant communities including Arab, Bosnian, Brazilian, Chinese, Haitian, Indian, Irish, Latin American, Pakistani, Polish, and Russian immigrants. Feet in Two Worlds reporters appear on nationally-distributed public radio programs including PRI’s The World, Studio 360, and The Takeaway, American Public Media’s Marketplace and NPR’s Latino USA, as well as on public radio stations WNYC, New York Public Radio, and WDET in Detroit.