Rep. Hastings Says Bonjou

Florida Rep. Adds Creole Translation to His House Site

Posted March 16, 2004 at 2:02pm

In an effort to cater to a growing Haitian-American constituency, Rep. Alcee Hastings’ (D-Fla.) office is offering a Creole language option on his Web site to complement the English and Spanish versions.

“The move makes good political sense. We’ve been working on it since last summer, and we just updated it a week or two ago,” said Fred Turner, Hastings’ chief of staff. Creole is the primary language of Haiti.

According to Turner, complaints and queries from Haitian-Americans make up about one-half of the immigration issues Hastings’ office deals with, which is why it has two staffers in the district office who are fluent in Creole.

“Congressman Hastings is encouraging other offices to do the same,” said Turner, adding that Haitian-Americans from other Congressional district offices in Florida frequently visit Hastings’ office because they have staffers who speak Creole.

While the U.S. Census does not have a specific classification for people of Haitian descent, Turner said that like Cuban immigrants in decades past, Haitian immigrants are moving up the Florida coast toward the central part of the state.

Hastings’ district, which includes parts of Broward, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties, has the second-largest Haitian-American population in the country next to that of Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), who represents southern Broward County and northern Miami-Dade County.

A representative of Meek’s office said the staff has no plans to place a Creole language option on their Web site, but said they do employ two staffers in their district office who speak the language. “Little Haiti” is located in the Northern Miami section of Meek’s district.

As for the ongoing crisis in Haiti, Hastings, who serves on the Intelligence Committee, is well aware that the differing opinions in his Haitian electorate echo those of the troubled Caribbean nation. “He’s got a constituency that reflects the population of Haiti. One-half supported [departed President Jean-Bertrand] Aristide and one-half did not,” Turner said.

Last month Hastings introduced H.Con.Res. 372, which called for the United States to assume a leadership role in the Haitian crisis and Secretary of State Colin Powell to request a special session of the United Nations General Assembly to organize a peace building mission to Haiti. The resolution was referred to the International Relations Committee.