In an interview with PBS Newshour, new member to Congress Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick shared how she plans to represent the Haitian community of Florida. Cherfilus-McCormick told PBS she has a special kind of responsibility to that community considering the natural disasters and violence that have recently overcome Haiti.
“I am here to bring that voice and understanding and cultural competency of being a Caribbean woman, being a Black woman and being a district full of minorities and being a district that suffers the same. So it’s a huge responsibility, and I’m excited for the challenge because now we get to tell our story,” she told PBS.
PBS noted this is the first time in 50 years Haitians will have a representative in the House while almost half a million Haitian Americans reside in Florida. Cherfilus-McCormick said she is happy to take control of the narrative about Haiti and its people.
The biggest goal in the one that we have is most pressing right now is stability. We have to figure out how do we help Haiti become more stable. And I do believe that starts with a fact-finding mission where we can actually start finding out what’s really going on in Haiti. How do we support a democratic process, and how do we incorporate and include Haitian American organizations and Haitian Americans in the United States? Haitian Americans in the United States provide most of the funding to stimulate Haiti’s economy. There’s millions, if not billions, of dollars that come from Haitian Americans who live here who are sending money.
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Cherfilus-McCormick said she remembered working hard in the states to send money back home to Haiti herself. Recently, 19 countries in the U.N. including Canada, France and Mexico pledged to donate $39 million in aid and discussed improving security to ensure successful elections, reported AP News. AP also reported 60 percent of Haitians earn less than $2 a day while still facing inflation, creating a critical economic crisis. Cherfilus-McCormick told PBS the violence and disturbances facing Haitians are the main reason why they come to the states seeking asylum.
Immigration reform was a huge part of your campaign. Many Haitians seeking asylum were sent back when their temporary protected status expired. What change are you advocating for in terms of helping refugees?
Haitians who are looking for citizenship or admittance into the United States are really facing challenges that we see in other nations. In other countries, they’ve been welcomed. So why not us? When you look at the disturbances going on in Haiti, from the assassination to the earthquake to gangs taking over, it is very clear the Haitian people fall into the category for asylum.So why not give Haitian people asylum? And if you look at it, it’s because of all the rhetoric that’s been going on for years. You know, “Haitian boat people.”
Cherfilus-McCormick said the Republicans have been pushing a narrative for years to make immigration seem dangerous to its Florida residents and economy. “Who do they want to show? They want to show Haitian people,” she told PBS. She said it is time to stop ignoring the communities negatively impacted by harsh immigration policies.
“Even though the media consistently tries to paint us as one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and such a disheveled country and not democratic. But when you meet Haitian people, that is not who we are at all. We’re just not the people who they paint,” said Cherfilus-McCormick.