Tag: Haitian

Stories about Haitian immigrants in the U.S.

Helping Haitians to Help Themselves: FI2W’s Martina Guzmán on WDET’s Detroit Today

The Detroit non-profit brings health care and medicines to Mirebalais, a town in Haiti - Photo: Haiti Outreach Mission.

The Detroit non-profit brings health care and medicines to Mirebalais, a town in Haiti. (Photo: Haiti Outreach)

Non-profit group Haiti Outreach, based out of St. Blase Church on Detroit’s east side, sends physicians and medical supplies to Mirebalais, a remote town in Haiti.

In a new piece for Detroit public radio’s Detroit Today show, Feet in 2 Worlds and WDET reporter Martina Guzmán reports on the group and its missions to Haiti, where people “will do anything to see a physician,” including standing in a mile-long line, say members Dominique Monde and Soledad Nelson.

“The relationship between both communities is mutually beneficial –reports Martina–. By helping a town in Haiti, Haitian-Americans help themselves maintain their identity.”

You can hear the piece below or visit Detroit Today’s webpage.


Haitians in South Florida Rally To Demand End To Deportations

By Macollvie Jean-François
Flyer for Saturday's march.

Flyer for Saturday's march.

MIAMI  — Tomorrow, South Florida activists expect 2,000 to 4,000 supporters to attend a rally seeking Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians and to urge lawmakers to put a stop to deportations of undocumented Haitian immigrants. The rally is scheduled to take place in front of the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, a few miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

[UPDATE: After the rally, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported: “Rapper Wyclef Jean made a surprise appearance at a rally in Pompano Beach on Saturday, where about 250 people called for the U.S. government to stop deportations to Haiti.” See more here.]

The rally comes after news last week that 30,000 Haitians have been ordered to leave the U.S. after a short-lived halt in deportations had made many hopeful they would be granted temporary stays. The suspension of deportations followed a series of brutal storms that lashed Haiti last year. Now Haiti is blocking the deportations by not issuing travel documents to its citizens, saying the country just cannot take in more people at this time.

TPS for Haitians was expected to be a hot-button issue for the Obama Administration, and pro-immigrant advocates in the community said throughout the presidential campaign it would be their goal to make it a reality under the new administration.

Now, a little more than a month into Barack Obama’s presidency, the issue has become a litmus test of his loyalty to a group of immigrant voters who campaigned heavily for him.

“I was expecting right after Obama took office that he would do something,” said Bob Louis Jeune, head of the Haitian Citizens United Taskforce in West Palm Beach, and an organizer of Saturday’s rally. “But he never said anything. We get tired of sending letters and emails, and nobody said anything.”


Standoff Between the U.S. and Haiti: 30,000 Migrants at Issue

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
Haitian Times

Haitians in South Florida celebrated Obama's victory on Nov. 4, 2008. (Photo: Haitian Times)

In one of our end-of-the-year pieces last December, Haitian-American journalist Macollvie Jean-François summed up the hopes of Haitians in the U.S. after many of them helped elect Barack Obama to the presidency: “People here hope for a policy toward Haiti that is comprehensive, streamlined, smart and empathetic.”

It seems those hopes are not being realized despite the change at the White House. Monday, an article in the South Florida-Sun Sentinel revealed that 30,000 Haitians have been ordered to leave the U.S., after a temporary halt in deportations had made many hopeful they would be granted temporary stays.

Haiti has reacted by blocking the deportations through a simple measure: it is not processing travel documents for its citizens, leaving some 600 of them in immigration detention centers in the U.S.


After Eventful Year, Haitian-Americans Continue to Hope

By Macollvie Jean-François

In the aftermath of the devastation four major storms wrought on Haiti’s already fragile ecosystem and precarious daily life a few months ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it would stop deporting Haitians, temporarily. The news brought on such euphoria among some, it was as though the U.S. government had finally granted Haitians the long-sought, ever-elusive Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and at-long-last tangibly recognized Haiti’s volatility. When ICE revoked that measure 10 weeks later (see a Sun-Sentinel story reposted here), it was like throwing a bucket of water on advocates and families impacted.

But the hope — a popular word these days — is that an Obama Administration may be more receptive to granting Haitians TPS. It’s one example of aspirations many Haitian-Americans hope will fare better than they did under George Bush.

No one expects substantial change in Haiti or Haitian enclaves overnight, though many experienced an immediate boost in pride at the President-elect’s achievements. People understand that the recession, the wars, health care, education and energy take precedence over immigration-related issues.

Haitian-Americans and friends of Haiti are quick to throw out these maxims in conversation about U.S.-Haiti relations: “When it rains in the U.S., it pours in Haiti”; “If the U.S. sneezes, Haiti catches a cold.” The sayings speak to the connection between the two countries – a mere 2-hour flight from each other — and how heavily Haiti relies on the U.S. for aid, whether from the U.S. government or remittances sent home by Haitian -Americans. It’s the reason thousands of naturalized U.S. citizens stood on those snaking lines across South Florida to vote early, some standing for several hours. Their ballots, firmly cast, helped deliver Florida to Obama, early and decisively. (more…)

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.


Immigrant Voters in South Florida: A Haitian-American Hoping for Change

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

It’s an overcast, slightly chilly, dry day in South Florida: perfect voting weather, if the experts are correct.

Lines at precincts in the Fort Lauderdale area were long earlier in the day, when polls opened at 7 a.m. They have been moving, and speeding up as the morning progresses. The average wait has been about one to one and a half hours.

Cateline Hjardemaal, who is pregnant, said in Miramar she spent only about fifteen minutes in line, until poll workers noticed her jutting tummy.

“It was easy,” Hjardemaal, a Haitian-American, said. “I need a change. I hope [government programs] will be back to the way they were before. Today, everything is about cutting. They cut, cut everything.”

On Election Day, Feet In 2 Worlds Covers The Immigrant Vote

Ellis Island, by Laverrue.

As America votes Tuesday, we will bring you reports from polling places in immigrant and ethnic neighborhoods across the U.S.

Follow Election Day from the perspective of immigrant journalists in battleground states Florida and New Hampshire, as well as Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York.

  • We’ll tell you how the election is going for first-time voters.
  • We’ll cover efforts to make sure that voting goes smoothly in immigrant neighborhoods and that all the votes are counted.
  • We’ll report on the mood among Latino, Chinese, Haitian, Arab and South Asian voters as they cast their ballots in this historic election.
  • We’ll bring you photos of voting in immigrant communities across the country.

You can also listen to Election Day coverage by Feet in Two Worlds reporters on PRI’s The World and The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, New York Public Radio.

Early Voting in North Miami: Long Lines and Lots of Patience

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL., NOV. 2 – By Macollvie Jean-François, Sun Sentinel reporter.

On the day elections officials said would break turnout records, Marie St. Fort stood in line around the corner from a North Miami library, squinting into a harsh afternoon sun. She was about 200th in line, waiting to vote early.

“Oh, I don’t care if it goes into the morning, I’ll stay right here,” St. Fort, 49, said. “I have to vote today. I have so many reasons to vote, I don’t know where to start.”

Like many others who showed up at crunch time, the Haitian-born mother of five said she had to get voting out of the way because she had too many errands to run Sunday —the last day to vote early in Florida— between attending church and other activities. As St. Fort shuffled along over two hours, campaigners came along, making last-ditch attempts to get their way with local amendments and even to give away free candy bars and lollipops. A local Haitian activist stopped by to see if anyone had any problems voting. One woman came bearing a tray of $1 hot dogs individually wrapped in foil.


First-Time Voters in a Battleground State: Immigrants Step Up to the Polls in South Florida

Election worker Pierre Audain (left) looks on as first-time voter Lucille Dorasme, 79, practices using a Florida voting machine.

Election worker Pierre Audain (left) looks on as first-time voter Lucille Dorasme, 79, practices using a Florida voting machine.

This post is by Macollvie Jean-François, a reporter at the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A couple of weeks ago, while talking about the presidential election at a Fort Lauderdale strip mall, Gregory Fleurinor, 31, took his voter registration card out of his wallet. He wanted to prove that he is registered — and indeed he has been since January 2006.

Fleurinor, however, has never used the card. The clammy feel of the paper, a result of being pressed against other cards in his wallet, ignored, attests to that. Barely a month before the election, the Haitian-American delivery driver said he still hadn’t made up his mind about whether he would vote.

“I’m just not used to voting, I’ve never done it,” Fleurinor said, shrugging. “I haven’t decided if I will go [to the polls]. Everyone else is going, what difference will it make if I don’t go?”

Groups in immigrant communities have been working feverishly to ensure people like Fleurinor do vote. They are targeting both newly naturalized Americans and those who simply never bothered to go to the polls in the past.

Events like a free Jay-Z-Wyclef Jean concert in Miami on Oct. 5, which one immigrant empowerment advocate called “awareness builders,” receive great attention, but they do not necessarily get people out to vote. What does translate into ballots are other, less flashy, ongoing efforts by community and advocacy groups, like door-to-door canvassing, phone calls and simulated voting exercises.

The latter combat the fear many immigrants and first-time voters have about their debut in the polling booth. Some simply do not know enough about how to cast their vote; others still harbor fears that stem from chaotic, even dangerous, experiences in their birth countries.


Haitians in South Florida: “Wi Nou Kapab” (Yes, We Can)

Jocelyne Cameau, an Obama supporter, at a Haitians for Obama event in Delray Beach.

Jocelyne Cameau, an Obama supporter, at a Haitians for Obama event in Delray Beach.

This story is by Macollvie Jean-François, a Haitian-American news reporter with the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.

On a recent Thursday night at a Haitian restaurant near Fort Lauderdale, Karl Heintz held court at a table where he sat with a half dozen other Haitian men. Over a heap of bronzed chicken and mounds of rice and beans, Heintz, a 36-year-old small-business owner, gave a 15-minute synopsis of the presidential race and the candidates that would rival that of any cable news network political analyst. He went from Barack Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention to Sarah Palin’s interview with Charles Gibson.

About a week later at the Palm Beach County Civic Center in Delray Beach, about 80 Haitian-Americans assembled for a Haitians for Obama rally. When a few people pulled out checkbooks to donate, Frantz Richard, 54, persuaded them to do it online instead. He keyed in their credit card and other personal information on the laptop right there at the reception area.

Excitement over Obama’s candidacy and disenchantment with the Bush administration have combined to push Heintz, Richard and other Haitians to actively campaign this year. Heintz said he’s not part of any formal groups, but he stays informed, has made nearly $500 in campaign contributions over several months, and he understands how close the election could be. (The 537 votes that cost Gore Florida in 2000 are becoming something close to a mantra, with many people alluding to them in cautionary tones.)

Haitian-American users on Facebook and MySpace, meanwhile, have been circulating information about the candidates for months. 

Within this mostly-Democratic voting bloc, most of the campaign events in South Florida are pro-Obama. Most Haitian-Americans support the Democrat unabashedly, citing his inspiring success in America as a black man with a “hyphenated identity.” His migration experience and his exposure to world cultures resonate with them as immigrants.

On the other hand, efforts supporting the Democratic ticket seem belated and less visible than during previous elections, for a variety of reasons— the online outreach option being one. Four years ago, you couldn’t drive two blocks in the traditional Haitian enclaves without seeing a storefront window plastered with red-white-blue campaign posters. However, quite a few Haitians for Obama groups have emerged since Hillary Clinton’s concession and the DNC. They’re now hosting fundraising events, handing our car stickers, and sporting t-shirts bearing Obama’s face with his “Yes, We Can” slogan in Creole: “Wi, Nou Kapab.”