Haitian Diaspora Federation Chapters in North America

North America hosts most of the Haitian Diaspora population. They are scattered in 4 North America’s Countries – Bahamas, Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America.  The rest is mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and small pockets in Asia and Africa.  A large number of Haitians also live in territories of the US, of France, of the United Kingdom, and of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. For geopolitical reasons, they shall be made part of the indexed federation.  

With an area of 180,000 sq miles,  a population of  389.4 million (2019) and GDP of US$13.26 billion (2019),and per capita of US$ 34,059 (2019), the Bahamas, known officially as the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is Lucayan Archipelago in the West Indies, but placed in North America. The archipelagic state consists of fewer than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, and is located north of Cuba and Hispaniola Island (Haiti and Dominican Republic), northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, southeast of the US state of Florida, and east of the Florida Keys. The capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. It is a member of the Commonwealth Realms under the monarchy of Queen Elizabeth II.

Noted Bahamas’ history includes 1) inhabited by the Lucayans (Taíno people) for many centuries;  2) discovered by Columbus in 1492;  3)  1513 – 1648, English colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera;  4) became a British crown colony in 1718;  5) after the American Revolutionary War, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists along with their slaves to establish plantations on land grants; Africans liberated from illegal slave ships were resettled on the islands by the Royal Navy, while some North American slaves and Seminoles escaped to The Bahamas from Florida; 6)  slavery was abolished in 1834 and subsequently, The Bahamas became a haven for freed African slaves; 7). Bahamas gained governmental independence in 1973 led by Sir Lynden O. Pindling, with Elizabeth II as its queen; and 7) today Afro-Bahamians and Haitians make up 90% of the population.

In terms of gross domestic product per capita, The Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americas (following the United States and Canada), with an economy based on tourism and offshore finance. Bahamas produces little.   As a result, the island heavily relies on importation of its commodities, including food.  And a lot of it. This is one area Haiti could exploit. Indeed Bahamas has been seeking food from Haiti in their quest to discourage illegal haitian migration to this country. But, as usual, Haiti fails to deliver. This underlines the need for a change.  

Coupled with employment opportunities, these attributes attract a large number of Haitians to The Bahamas.  According to Theodat, people of Haitian descent living in the Bahamas are estimated to be around 50,000[5]. However, fueled by family reunification, Haiti’s extreme poverty and constant turmoil,  the number has increased since then. Wikipedia’s estimate that upwards 80,000 Haitians or 25% of the population live in the Bahamas.  Of note, since the 1970s many of these workers set their eyes onto Florida, taking with them their Bahamian-born as well for new opportunities in the United States. Hence, for a long time, the Bahamas was considered as a step toward U.S. migration.  Many of the Boat people intercepted on Florida shores originated from the Archipelago. The foregoing is not favorable to exact statistics, underlining the need for a census. The integration of people of Haitian descent in the Bahamas remains fluid until today, a daunting situation marred by prejudice, and a lack of cohesive immigration policies to regulate the status of many who entered the country “illegally” decades ago.  Of note, The Bahamas currently does not allow dual citizenship, so those who are Bahamian citizens, must renounce their Haitian citizenship.

Haitian  migration to the Bahamas faces constant challenges – migration,  integration, assimilation, discrimination, heath and economic disparities, relative poverty – especially after the hurricane Dorian.  Experts on Haiti Affairs fault Haiti’s sustained underdevelopment and the failure of its diaspora’s collective engagement as culprits.  In a glance of hope, thought,  there are some basic structures in place that can serve a springboard.  There is  one Haitian Embassy in Nassau Bahamas, underlining the presence of a significant number of Haitians. However,  its involvement with and support to this  diaspora is fluid.  Additionally, Haitian diaspora of Bahamas own several small businesses, but lack of financing and expertise are cited as deterrents. There are also several churches, but No reported non profit Haitian organizations by Google search.

In summary, upwards of 80.000 Haitians live and work in the Bahamas.  This community continuously faces daunting challenges, but it is also blessed with solution-oriented resources – people, diplomatic outlets, churches.  However, linkage between them and the greater Haitian diaspora is unfortunately tenuous.  That leads to dismal  outcome and criticisms to overcome.  Meanwhile this diaspora and Haiti’s challenges continue.  The Haitian Diaspora Federation is undertaking the task of connecting the dots for result-oriented collective engagement.

With a surface area of 3,855,103 sq. miles, population of 37.5 million (2019), GDP of US$1.74 trillion (2019), and capita of US$46,487 (2019), Canada occupies much of the continent of North America, sharing land borders with the contiguous United States to the south and the U.S. state of Alaska to the northwest. The world’s longest bi-national land border, Canada stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west; to the north lies the Arctic Ocean. Greenland is to the northeast and to the southeast Canada shares a maritime boundary with France‘s overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the last vestige of New France.  By total area (including its waters), Canada is the second-largest country in the world, after Russia. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean. Canada’s capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.  

Noted history of  Canada includes 1) British and French expeditions explored and later settled along the Atlantic coast, as a consequence of various armed conflicts, France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America in 1763; 2). In 1867, with the union of three British North American colonies through Confederation, Canada was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces; 3) an accretion of provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the United Kingdom;. 4). This widening autonomy was highlighted by the Statute of Westminster of 1931;  and 5) culminated in the Canada Act of 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament; 6) Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy in the Westminster tradition, with a monarch and a prime minister who serves as the chair of the Cabinet and head of government; 7)The country is a realm within the Commonwealth of Nations, a member of the Francophonie and officially bilingual at the federal level;  8)  It ranks among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, and education;  9). It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many other countries; 10). Canada’s long and complex relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture; 11) Both Quebec, Canada,  and Haiti once belonged to the French during their imperial period, resulting in Quebec being the most noticeable bastion of French culture — language, Catholic beliefs — in North America and residence of most haitians in Canada;  and 12) Canada is part of several major international and intergovernmental institutions or groupings including the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the Group of Ten, the G20, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

A developed country, Canada has the seventeenth-highest nominal per-capita income globally as well as the thirteenth-highest ranking in the Human Development Index. Its advanced economy is the tenth-largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed international trade networks. The economy of Canada is a highly developed market economy, fueled by service industrynatural resources, largest proven petroleum reserves and fourth largest exporter of petroleum and  the fourth largest exporter of natural gas, and an “energy superpower” due to its abundant natural resources and a small population of 37 million inhabitants relative to its land area.  Of note, although an advanced country,  like other countries, Canada  relies on importation of certain commodities, including food. This is an area Haiti can exploit. 

Coupled with Education and employment opportunities, the aforementioned attributes attract a large number of Haitians to Canada.  Although pockets can be found in Toronto and other provinces, Haitians in Canada mainly live in Quebec.  The tie is not surprising as Canada and Haiti share similar history.   Of note, Haitians in Canada have reached the highest and most prestigious positions amongst their compatriots from the Diaspora around the World when Michaelle Jean became the Governor of Canada. And scores of Haitians descendents are members of the local and national government. In 1971, there were less than 5,000 Canadians of Haitian origin living in Canada.  Since the start of the New Century, Haitians are amongst the top 10 non-European groups residing in Canada.  Estimates from both Canada’s government and other international migration organizations place the total number of people of Haitian origin in Canada between 77,000   and 82,000. Since then, there have been two distinct waves of Haitian migration towards Canada, especially after Haiti’s 2012 earthquake.  According to several sources, the number has exponentially increased.  In the August  29, 2017 edition of The guardian, Martin Lukacs reported that the image of the country as a welcome haven was pitched to win the support of millions of people in Canada, who, rightly, feel two things — compassion for the plight of refugees and disgust for the antics of Donald Trump. 

“Hence an influx of thousands of Haitian refugees from the United States — afraid of being deported back to Haiti by Trump,he concluded. 

This seems to be a contrast to then candidate Trump’s promise to  Haitian American voters in Miami, just a year before.  

“I want to be your greatest champion” –– said Candidate Trump.

In the same vein, immigrant advocates also weighed on the debacle:

Knowing Canada is a land of welcome, the word going around is that it’s open to Haitians,said  Bouchereau, a Haitian Canadian advocate.

“Montreal’s large Haitian community, which is about 120,000 strong, has family, business and cultural ties with those on the  south of the border”, he added. 

The debacle birthed the legal admission or a path to legal admission of those Haitians. This, 1) displayed  prominently the power of collective engagement; 2) created a precedent and a model for the larger diaspora; and 3) availed  some statistical data as to the number of Haitians in Canada.  However, with family reunification and the continuous influx, the actual number of Haitians in Canada is not known. Indeed, community activists estimate that upwards 300,000 Haitians reside or and live in Canada. Therefore, a census is necessary for adjudication. 

Notewistandoing the need for gentle pressure when warranted, Haitian migration to Canada  faces less challenges – migration,  integration, assimilation, discrimination, heath and economic disparities, relative poverty – than in most countries. However, the grand lesson to learn — a model — is the power of collective engagement.  Fortunately.  In a glance of hope, there are some basic structures in place that can serve a springboard. There is one Haitian embassy with consular services in Ottawa  and one consulate in Montreal, Canada. However, their support to and collaboration with this diaspora is fluid.  As noted above, there are several small Haitian businesses, but the availability of financing and expertise is cited as deterrents.  There are several Haitian churches and nonprofit organizations – Maison d’Haiti, and many others. Of note, Haitians in Canada have reached the highest and most prestigious positions amongst their compatriots from the Diaspora around the World when Michaelle Jean became the Governor of Canada. And scores of Haitians descendents are members of the local and national government. 

 In summary, an estimated upward 500.000 Haitians reside and or live and work in Canada.  Although less, this community still faces challenges, but it is also blessed with solution-oriented resources – people, diplomatic outlets, and nonprofits, including a number of churches.  However, linkage between them and the greater Haitian diaspora is unfortunately tenuous. That leads to dismal outcome and criticisms to overcome.  Meanwhile this diaspora and Haiti’s challenges continue. The Haitian Diaspora Federation is undertaking the task of connecting the dots for result-oriented collective engagement.

Noted history of Mexico includes 1) Pre-Columbian Mexico back 8000 BC;  2) Spanish Empire conquered, colonized and administered mexico as the viceroyalty of New Spain;  4) Mexican War of Independence, headed by Agustín Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero;  5) Texas Independence in 1836;  6) Mexican–American War (1846–1848), which led to huge territorial loss in Mexico’s sparsely populated north, contiguous to the United States;  7) modern nation-state enshrined in the Constitution of 1857;  8) the War of the Reform (1858–61);  9) French invaded, and set up Maximilian Hapsburg as emperor while Benito Juárez remain; 10) the head of the Mexican republic in exile; 11) Restored Republic (1867–76) with military aid from the United States at the end of the U.S. Civil War in 1865; 12) thirty-year civilian rule under following the coup d’état of Liberal Army General Porfirio Díaz in 1876; 12) Mexican Revolution in 1910; President-elect Alvaro Obregón led to the formation of the Partido Nacional Revolucionario en 1929 (now the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI), which continuously held the presidency until 2000, essentially a one-party state. democratic transition in the 1990s.  Since 2006, there has been a serious conflict between the Mexican government and various drug trafficking syndicates that lead to over 120,000 deaths.  

With upwards 1 trillion GDP, fueled by oil and tourism, Mexico has the world’s fifteenth-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the eleventh-largest by PPP. Mexican  is an emerging  global power,economy,  strongly linked to those of its 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, especially the United States In 1994, Mexico became the first Latin American member of the OECD. Oil-rich Mexico is an ecologically megadiverse country, ranking fifth in the world for its biodiversity. Due to its rich culture and history, Mexico ranks first in the Americas and seventh in the world for number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  The country is considered both a regional power and a middle power and is often identified as an emerging global power Mexico is a member of the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the G8+5, the G20, the Uniting for Consensus group of the UN, and the Pacific Alliance trade bloc. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the economy of Mexico is a developing market economy. The economy contains rapidly developing modern industrial and service sectors, with increasing private ownership. An export-oriented economy, recent administrations have expanded competition in ports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity generation, natural gas distribution and airports, with the aim of upgrading infrastructure.  As many other countries, Mexico imports certain commodities, a friendly market for potential Haitian products.  

Coupled with tropical climate, friendly immigration policy, Education and employment opportunities, the aforementioned attributes attract a large number of Haitians to Mexico.  According to Mexico’s National Migration Institute a total of 3,649 people of Haitian origin live in Mexico. An increase of this diaspora has been noted from 2010 and 2015. Migration trends toward Mexico have not changed much since the early part of the Twentieth Century.  Students with temporary residency status have always been a distinct portion of Haitian expatriates in Mexico.  Thirty percent (30%) of the 3,649 are legally registered people of Haitian origin in Mexico between 2010 and 2015 [6] . Most of the Haitian diaspora used to live in Mexico City while  the students are scattered throughout the country. However, the 2016 Central America Caravan  has changed that.   Brazil and its neighbors took in the Haitians after that country’s 2010 earthquake. As construction jobs for the 2016 Summer Olympics ended and Brazil’s economy slumped, the Haitians crossed 10 countries by plane, boat, bus and on foot to San Diego via Tijuana, Mexico, where U.S. authorities initially let them in on humanitarian grounds. According to Vicenews, over the past year (2016 – 2017), 16,000 Haitians arrived at the Mexico-U.S. border seeking asylum. Most of these Haitian migrants made a months-long journey across Central and South America. The journey north was not easy.  From Brazil, where they had settled after fleeing the devastation of the 2010 earthquake in their homeland, the journey  was long, expensive, and extremely dangerous — crossing 10 countries by foot, bus and boat, while dealing with human smugglers and corrupt police.  Scores have died during the journey.

The U.S. had once welcomed Haitians, but with an estimated 40,000 of them en route, former President Barack Obama and now President Donald Trump refused to let them cross the border. Migrants were left waiting in Mexico for months before U.S. immigration officials would even look at their cases. Now, as Trump has further closed off America’s borders, thousands of them are stranded in Mexico, straining the country’s resources. 

As in other Diaspora communities, no official census of people of Haitian ancestry has been commissioned. However, the Mayor of Tijuana, Juan Manuel Gastelum, proudly noted that “roughly 3,000 Haitians ended up staying in Tijuana after their bid to reach the U.S. failed.

The Haitians arrived with their papers, with a clear vision; they came in an orderly way; they never asked us for food or shelter, renting apartments and making their own food; the Haitians found jobs and inserted themselves in the city’s economy and had not been involved in any disturbances,” he added.

And they are apparently adjusting economically and culturally to life in Mexico.

I, too, wanted to get to the U.S. when I first arrived in Tijuana and still wish I was earning dollars, but have been able to make a life here,” said Philocles Julda, president of The Association for the Defense of Haitian Migrants. 

“I feel for the migrants who are arriving from other countries just like we did,” he said. “But you do adapt; and work is plentiful in Tijuana, whose economy has been growing and whose factories have thousands of openings.” he added.

“We have been looking for workers for quite a while,” concluded Alejandrina Yanez, who works in human resources at a factory that makes warehouse storage racks for Costco, Home Depot and other international companies.

  The exact number of Haitians in Mexico is not known but community leaders estimate that upwards of 80.000 Haitians today live in Mexico. 

The Haitian Diaspora in Mexico faces less challenges — migration,  integration, assimilation, discrimination, heath and economic disparities, relative poverty – than in other countries of adoption.  But still there is room for improvement.  In a glance of hope, though,  there are some basic structures in place that can serve a springboard. There is one Haitian Embassy with consular services in Mexico City and one consulate in Guadalajara. However, their assistance to  and collaboration with this diaspora is fluid. There are  some reported Haitian small Businesses, but lack of finance and expertise are faulted as deterrents to expansion. There is one known nonprofit Haitian organization, noted above, and  no reported Haitian Churches.

In summary, upwards 200.000 Haitians live and work in Mexico.  This community faces much less challenges and is blessed with solution-oriented resources – people, diplomatic outlets, and nonprofits. However, linkage between them and the greater Haitian diaspora is unfortunately tenuous.  That leads to dismal  outcome and criticisms to overcome.  Meanwhile this diaspora and Haiti’s challenges continue. The Haitian Diaspora Federation is undertaking the task of connecting the dots for result-oriented collective engagement.

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