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Haitian Voters Turning From Trump — But Turn Up Pressure On Biden With Letter

Andrew Harnik
AP Photo
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Miami.

Haitian community groups in Florida have sent Joe Biden 10 issues to address if he's elected President — and they want to talk with him about it before the vote.

Because a surprising number of Haitian-Americans voted for President Trump in 2016, Joe Biden has made a point of engaging South Florida Haitians.

But the Haitian community is expecting more from the Democratic candidate than just campaign face time — as it made clear in a policy-point letter sent to the campaign by advocates this week.

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Many Haitian-American voters say they’ve not been pleased with President Trump these past four years. Not after his efforts to cancel Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Haitians in the U.S. And not after he called Haiti a “sh—hole” country.

But Democrats still remember how many Haitians in 2016 either voted for Trump — who made a personal campaign visit to Miami’s Little Haiti — or stayed home not to vote for Hillary Clinton, who was particularly unpopular with Haitians.

As a result, Biden made his own campaign stop in Little Haiti this month, pledging not to take their vote for granted. Still, two dozen Haitian community groups in Florida have laid out 10 issues they say he should tackle if he’s elected president.

Among them: Stopping deportation flights to Haiti and releasing immigration detainees during the pandemic; re-designating Haiti for TPS and rebooting the Haitian Family Reunification Program; and a more aggressive U.S.-Haiti development policy.

And they made it clear they want a sit-down with Biden to discuss these things before election day.

Many Haitian-American activists say halting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation flights, which they say increase the risks of COVID-19 transmission between the U.S. and Haiti, are an especially urgent concern right now.

Clarel Cyriaque, a Haitian-American attorney in Miami who monitors those flights, says the current number is "definitely more than normal. Even back in March and April they were sending out two flights in a week, but not five flights in a matter of a few days. So this is very much a much greater uptick."

Center for Economic and Policy Research
A look at ICE deportation flights from the U.S. showing an uptick in those bound for Haiti.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.
Daniel Rivero is a reporter and producer for WLRN, covering Latino and criminal justice issues. Before joining the team, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion.