Eager to make political inroads in crucial South Florida, Donald Trump’s campaign has spent the past few days trying to arrange a private meeting with prominent Haitian Americans ahead of Trump’s Miami campaign rally Friday.
So far, a meeting has yet to be set — in part because the Haitian diaspora appears wary of Trump.
“I don’t think I can vote for him,” said former North Miami Mayor Josaphat “Joe” Celestin, a Republican and son of immigrants who has been invited to the meeting. “When I heard the rhetoric and some of the responses he gave during some of the debates, I was extremely disappointed.”
Trump supporters are well aware of Haitian Americans’ reluctance, which is why they’re trying to get community leaders in front of the candidate himself to change their minds.
“He needs to address the Haitian people directly,” said Michael Barnett, the Palm Beach County Republican Party chairman putting the meeting together. “He knows how to listen to people and find out what the problems are.”
Haitian Americans are already skeptical about Hillary Clinton. Many still feel seething anger toward Clinton and her husband over their political and philanthropic involvement in Haiti.
“Voters have a very tough plate in front of them,” said Celestin, who in 2001 became the first Haitian American elected mayor of a sizable U.S. city. “I think this election cycle, most Haitians are going to stay home. They don’t want to vote for Trump, and they don’t want to vote for Hillary — and we don’t have an alternative.”
Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press