During my recent experience volunteering at the New Americans Campaign, I had the opportunity to meet several migrants and assist them with filling out their naturalization documents. One person that I met really stood out to me. His name is Claude and he is a 22 year old migrant from Haiti. He was only 8 years old when he and his family immigrated to America and settled in Miami.
While filling out his naturalization forms, Claude's story slowly unfolded. His parents had hoped to move to America for years, however due to the significant costs and risks involved with migrating, their journey was delayed. Claude's father wanted him and his younger siblings to have a better education than they would have had if they stayed in Haiti.
His parents migrated in order to give their children a chance at academic success and to set them up to have a brighter future. In Haiti, the economic and political situations are dismal. They knew that in order for them to provide for their children and to have any hope for opportunities in the future, migration was the only option.
Claude's parents have to work multiple jobs to provide, and in a way they are still adjusting to life in America. His father works the night shift at a gas station in order to make ends meet. Despite these difficulties they still feel fortunate to be here and for their new lives. I truly felt saddened for Claude when I learned of their struggles in adjusting. However, for him to have such a positive attitude and to still feel grateful really put things into perspective for me. He truly has such a positive outlook on life and that mindset is what drives the American dream.
One of the major setbacks for his family has been the language barrier. Claude and his family speak Haitian Creole- while he learned English at a young age in school in the States, it was more difficult for his parents to adapt to the language. Luckily, the paralegal helping his parents out, Cassy, spoke Creole and was able to easily communicate with them.
New Americans Campaign, Miami, Fl.
Their struggle did not end when they made it to America. Claude told me about how his family faced some aspects of prejudice which create significant barriers to employment opportunities. Apparently this anti-Haitian prejudice is some what common for refugees living in South Florida. I was very saddened upon learning this information.
However, the Haitian population in South Florida continues to expand despite these difficulties. There are many new migrants settling in Miami and this group of people is constantly expanding. This prominent Haitian population has formed its own diaspora in an area called Little Haiti. In this neighborhood, located near the Edison/Little River, a large number of Haitian migrants have established themselves.
There is a common belief that if this diaspora is supported and strengthened, there will be a large benefit to Haiti. For this diaspora, there remains a strong attachment and connection to the homeland- Haiti. Regardless of the strife present in their country of origin, Haitians belonging to this diaspora remain strongly linked to the culture, country, and even idea of Haiti.
I found Claude's story to be empowering and fascinating. Before meeting him I had not known much about the strong Haitian presence in Miami and the diaspora that currently resides close to me. I think that the preservation of cultural traditions and network of alliance formed by those in the diaspora is admirable. I can only hope that the essence of Haiti endures especially in Little Haiti. I also hope that with some levels of assimilation and a stronger presence of migrants learning English, more opportunities become achievable.