“American Presidents Think about Their Own Interests First,” Haitians Say About U.S. Elections

Haitian activists and immigrants protest on City Hall Plaza in Boston in on Jan. 26, 2018. The U.S. election outcome will affect the fate of at least 50,000 Haitians and their 273,000 U.S.-born children because Trump seeks to end Haitians’ Temporary Protected Status (TPS) status, while Biden says he’ll extend it. Photo: Charles Krupa/AP

From his home in Carrefour-Feuilles, Port-au-Prince, Handy Calixte, 37, keeps up with U.S. elections news through television, radio and the internet — almost as much as he does Haitian news.

Calixte understands how much impact the outcome of the U.S. elections will have on Haiti. He supports Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden but doesn’t think either candidate, Biden or the Republican Party’s Donald Trump, will help Haiti any better than the other.

“If you look at history, the American presidents weren’t better or worse for Haiti,” said Calixte, owner of Job 360 Ayiti. “They will think about their own interests first. As they do, we’ll taste some of the grease from their rice.”

D’jerby Raphael, a University of Haiti law graduate and medical student. Photo courtesy of D’jerby Raphael

D’jerby Raphael, a University of Haiti law graduate and medical student, also thinks Biden has Haiti’s best interests at heart. He encourages Haitian-Americans to vote for him.

“I think if you’re Haitians and you’re voting in the U.S., you have to think about how Haiti will benefit,” said Raphael, 25. “Biden visited Haitians and talked to them. They have to pick the candidate who will support us more.”

One reason Haitians and Haitian-Americans support Biden over Trump is that he has promised to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and to have better oversight of funds provided to Haiti.

In contrast, Trump ended TPS for Haitian immigrants in June. More than 55,000 Haitian immigrants are at a high risk of getting deported as a result. Their families in Haiti heavily depend on remittances from these immigrants, and they have 273,000 U.S.-born children who would face a difficult choice between following their parents back to their homeland or remaining in the U.S..

The outcome of the U.S. elections could also determine which political party occupies Haiti’s National Palace in 2021, Calixte said. Haiti could mirror the U.S. political party they view as a copy of Trump’s Republican party — that of Haiti President Jovenel Moïse’s “Tèt Kale” Party (PHTK).

“If Trump wins, when they hold elections in Haiti, the Tèt Kale party might still be here,” Calixte said.

Haiti has been going through its most violent period since 2005 under Moïse’s three years in the National Palace, human rights experts have said.

Haiti has seen a series of attacks in Bel Air, Port-au-Prince, in which at least 22 residents were murdered and over 20 homes looted, then set on fire. There has also been a series of protests by numerous groups against insecurity.

Handy Calixte speaking to youths during an event in Carrefour-Feuilles, Port-au-Prince. Photo:
Luckelson Delva

U.S. officials haven’t intervened much but are pushing Haiti to hold elections, a process some residents are against because it could lead to more terror.

Calixte and Raphael don’t think the U.S. will help much next year either, they said, whether Biden wins or Trump.

“The solution shouldn’t come from the U.S. or other foreign powers, it should come from us Haitians,” Calixte said.

Still, in South Carolina, where Calixte’s cousin Patrick Gué voted early for Biden, he didn’t only have the U.S. in mind, but also Haiti. Gué said he thinks Haiti will fare slightly better under Biden.

Calixte is grateful because some of his compatriots think about the impact on Haiti before casting their ballots.

“When they leave Haiti, they leave for a better life and to support those left behind,” Calixte said. “They still love the country. It gives me a sense of pride. But I also encourage them to think and make the choice that will benefit them, because they’re the ones who live in the U.S..”

The original version of this article was published on the Haitian Times website.

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