In Open Letter, Haitian-American Diplomats say Trump’s Disparaging Comments Caused ‘Heartbreak and Despair’

Editor’s Note: This post contains explicit language.

A group of Haitian-American diplomats working for the State Department have written an open letter expressing their frustration with comments by President Donald Trump that the United States should limit the number of immigrants accepted from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa.

The diplomats, who are foreign service officers with Haitian ancestry working for the United States, say in the letter that they are “dismayed to hear about alleged comments denigrating areas of the world with large diasporas in the United States.” A member of the group told the NewsHour that they want to remain anonymous because they continue to serve in positions abroad.

“January 12th marked the 8th anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti, taking more than 200,000 innocent lives,” the letter said. “As American diplomats of Haitian heritage, we woke up to heartbreak and despair from reports of disparaging remarks emanating from the administration we serve, as we mourned family members lost on that fateful day.”

While careful not to directly criticize Trump, the letter makes it clear that the diplomats, like many Haitians working in other fields, were deeply hurt by the president’s statements.

Trump has denied making the comments, tweeting that he “never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”

However, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday that he heard the president make “hate-filled, vile and racist” statements to lawmakers. “He said, ‘Haitians, do we need more Haitians?’” Durbin said.


Haitian Ambassador Paul Altidor sat down with Judy Woodruff to discuss the historical relationship between Haiti and the U.S.

Moments after news of the comments spread Thursday, a handful of diplomats with Haitian ancestry working for the U.S. began messaging each other about how they could respond to the controversy. The group worked on the letter for two days and released it to PBS NewsHour on Saturday.

“Haitian-Americans, like Salvadoran and Nigerian Americans, are one of many immigrant groups that make up our country’s mosaic,” the letter said. “We are beneficiaries of the American dream, first generation Haitian Americans who have carved out a unique space within the melting pot as college graduates and homeowners, neighbors and taxpayers. We repay our debt of gratitude to America through public service and when we joined the Foreign Service, we pledged an oath to uphold the constitution and will continue to do so, on behalf of the American people.”

The letter went on to say that Haitian Americans who work as “doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers, nurses, teachers and more” are also part of “a diverse American diplomatic corps.”

“Our diversity strengthens our ability to interact and negotiate with foreign counterparts who see themselves in us,” the letter said. “It highlights the wonder of America, the belief that anyone can arrive on our shores, work hard and live the American dream and one day represent our country across the world. Our families are evidence of that, and our foreign counterparts recognize it when they meet American diplomats with last names strikingly similar to their own.”

Read the full text of the letter below.

In Memory of Those We Lost

January 12th marked the 8th anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti, taking more than 200,000 innocent lives. As American diplomats of Haitian heritage, we woke up to heartbreak and despair from reports of disparaging remarks emanating from the administration we serve, as we mourned family members lost on that fateful day. We were dismayed to hear about alleged comments denigrating areas of the world with large diasporas in the United States.

Haitian-Americans, like Salvadoran and Nigerian Americans, are one of many immigrant groups that make up our country’s mosaic. Nearly one million Haitian-Americans contribute to the fabric of America. Haitian immigrants contribute to American society as doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers, nurses, teachers and more. Immigrants have made it possible for us to live up to the true promise of America– a country that welcomes individuals of all backgrounds, incorporates them into our society, and allows them and their children to contribute to the building of our great nation.

We have witnessed the power of a diverse American diplomatic corps. Our diversity strengthens our ability to interact and negotiate with foreign counterparts who see themselves in us. It encapsulates how the United States aims to lead by example, providing proof that we embrace people of all races and creeds. It highlights the wonder of America, the belief that anyone can arrive on our shores, work hard and live the American dream and one day represent our country across the world. Our families are evidence of that, and our foreign counterparts recognize it when they meet American diplomats with last names strikingly similar to their own.

We are beneficiaries of the American dream, first generation Haitian Americans who have carved out a unique space within the melting pot as college graduates and homeowners, neighbors and taxpayers. We repay our debt of gratitude to America through public service and when we joined the Foreign Service, we pledged an oath to uphold the constitution and will continue to do so, on behalf of the American people. This honor would never have been bestowed upon us without great leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King. Such opportunities also would not be feasible without the sacrifices of our parents, Haitians, who like many other immigrants dating back to Plymouth Rock, came to the United States searching for freedom, dignity and economic opportunity. The story of Haitians, Salvadorans and Nigerians who left their homes and families behind to start a new life on these shores is the story of America. There is no America without immigrants, both old and new.

SOURCE: PBS NewsHour –