Haitian-American pols: Civil rights for Haitian immigrants

Members of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) prior to the start of this year’s National Retreat, which will focus on a strategic agenda for Haitians across the United States.
Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte

Haitian-American legislators across the United States are demanding that the civil rights for Haitian immigrants be honored.

The legislators said on Friday that their demand comes amid recent remarks by US President Donald J. Trump, who reportedly referred to Haiti and African nations, in a recent White House meeting with US lawmakers, as “shithole countries.”

The Haitian-American elected officials have also expressed deep concern about recent decisions by the Trump administration that they say are impacting the immigration status of Haitians currently residing in the US and those who are visiting.

Discussions on strategic planning and various legislative issues, including a call to action, began on Friday and continued the next day at the National Retreat of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) in North Miami, Fl.

“The Haitian community throughout the country has endured pain. It has been on the receiving end of unjust rhetoric and anti-immigration policies, and it faces challenges of communal vitality,” New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, the first Haitian American from New York City to be elected to the State Assembly, told the Caribbean Life on Friday.

“With the termination of H2A / H2B visas and the recent expiration of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 50,000 Haitians, our community has been rocked to its core,” added the representative for the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “I represent one of the largest concentrations of Haitians in the United States. “I am happy to come together with my colleagues in NHAEON this weekend to chart a path forward for Haitians in this country.

“We will call on this administration to reverse course and implement policies that are humane and just, especially as it relates to the Temporary Protected Status Program, and immigration,” Bichotte continued. “These policies are currently having a devastating impact on our community and need to be remedied.”

Alix Duselme, a North Miami councilman, said: “In a city in the United States where many Haitian Americans call home, I am delighted to host my colleagues from across this nation as we gather to discuss critical issues impacting a large portion of my constituents and policies affecting our beloved country.

“Effective leadership demands progressive actions and defensive reactions. Since 2009, members of the National Haitian-American Elected Officials Network have been proactive in empowering Haitian nationals with our collective advocacy,” he said. “The recent decisions to terminate TPS and disqualify Haitians for H2A and H2B benefits, we contend, were motivated, not by law, but by racism and xenophobia.

“Consequently, these illegal decisions necessitate such a retreat to defend Haitian interests,” Duselme continued.

“This reunion is historical and critical to shaping our beloved country Haiti and to continue to serve Haitians and Haitian Americans throughout the United States of America. I am excited to be amongst a group of elite Haitian professionals this weekend,” said New York States Assembly Member Kimberly Jean-Pierre, who represents Suffolk County, Long Is.

Her Assembly colleague, Clyde Vanel, representing Queens, New York, said, “now, more than ever, we must work collectively across the nation to foster the much-needed change for Haitians in the United States.”

Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright, of Brookhaven on Long Is., said the is gathering of Haitian-American legislators “comes at a critical time in the history of America.

“However, Haitians now find themselves as the subject of hateful political rhetoric and unsupported policy decisions here in the US,” she said. “There is no better time to come together with members of NHAEON in an effort to strengthen the protection of the human rights of Haitian people and shape immigration policies that are in the spirit of our long-standing policy of providing humanitarian assistance to those in need.”

“As negative remarks about Haiti and its people become a preoccupation for many, we, Haitian-American Elected and Appointed Officials, must look at the bright side, foster team spirit, breed optimism, promote resilience, renew faith and inspire confidence in ourselves and in others,” said Samson Borgelin, Commissioner District D, North Lauderdale, Fl.

“The younger generation must know their identity and heritage in order to be proud of their roots,” he added. “It is no accident that we as members of NHAEON are where we are, and doing what we are doing. Who knows whether we have come this far for such a time as this? With positive attitude from all these gems of officials, we can make a world of difference for generations to come both in the United States of America and our beloved mother Republic of Haiti.”

Commissioner Christina Romelus, District 3, Boynton Beach, Fl., said she was “humbled to join this network of Haitian-American elected officials from across the United States here in North Miami on this historic occasion.

“As a millennial representing thousands of Haitians in Palm Beach County, Florida, I feel it is imperative that we change the narrative for our future generations and dispel the lies that have been told about Haiti and its people for so long,” she said.

“We are resilient and will continue to fight for true freedom and equality,” Romelus added. “Today, we, as an organization, symbolize the Haitian flag’s motto, ‘L’Union Fait La Force’ [French for Unity Makes Strength].”

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