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DeSantis and Haiti: A Florida deputy accuses the Governor of demonizing and dehumanizing Haitian migrants and calls for the extension of TPS

  • March 27, 2024
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U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost on Tuesday called for extending protected status for Haitians fleeing violence in their country and criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis for suggesting he could call a special session to arrest and detain Haitian refugees who come to Florida.

“Imagine the Haitian people in our community waking up every morning to see the devastation in Haiti,” Frost, an Orlando Democrat, said during a news conference at his Orlando office. “And (then they) turn on the television and see their bigoted governor using his power not to console the people, not to tell them that he is going to do what he can to help the island and help Haiti, but to demonize and dehumanize them. It’s disgusting. »

DeSantis arranged flights from Haiti for Floridians and other Americans, but also launched Operation Vigilant Sentry to prevent Haitians from disembarking boats on the state’s shores. He told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Sunday that he might request a special session to expand the state’s powers to detain Haitian migrants as a “disincentive” to keep them out of Florida.

Florida has not seen a significant influx of Haitian refugees this year.

During a previous roundtable discussion, Haitian-Americans from Central Florida shared with Frost their concerns and concerns about Haiti and what the U.S. government can do to help their families. They also highlighted Haitian distrust of the United States due to centuries of exploitation and invasion.

“For me, Haiti is just around the corner,” said Isaie Marc, a member of the UNITE-HERE hospitality union. “There are many things we can do to fix what is happening in Haiti. (But) I’m trying to figure out what the plan is right now. » Nattacha Wyllie said she had spoken with a friend on the phone the previous evening, late at night.

“They’re staying up just to secure their neighborhood from gangs and people running away, leaving their homes to come and sleep in tents or wherever they can,” Wyllie said.

Marie José François said she had applied for her brother to immigrate from Haiti since 2020.

“Please if anyone can save my only brother for me,” she said. “I don’t know what else I’m going to do. »

She added that she “was not ashamed to say that I am Haitian and proud to be Haitian. …They talk about us being the poorest country. For me… it is the richest country in the world because it is my country. »

Others called for appointing a special envoy to Haiti, with one suggesting former President Barack Obama, and moving the embassy out of the gang-ravaged capital.

More than 500,000 Haitians lived in Florida in 2022, according to the United States Census Bureau survey, representing nearly half of all Haitians in the United States. This includes more than 40,000 Haitians living in the Orlando area.

“Any committee charged with making these decisions needs to include voices from the diaspora,” said Kelly Clerveau of the immigration group IDiginity.