ORLANDO, Fla. - Many Haitians are remembering the earthquake that devastated their country eight years ago Friday, but while they honor and remember those who died, some are also responding to President Donald Trump's disparaging remarks about their country during Thursday's talks on immigration reform.
"It's racist," said Niftaly Pierre of Orlando.
Pierre is an American teenager, but has Haitian parents. She said the fight over immigration reform is turning ugly and seems to counter everything she learned about America in school.
"If you're trying to push the black people, Spanish people out of America, then why did we fight for America back in the day?" Pierre said.
Pierre and her mother on Friday were at Cafe Creole, a local Haitian restaurant in the heart of Orlando.
Those who work at and visit the restaurant say they love their country, and they love America, but they are concerned about the rhetoric coming out of Washington, D.C.
So are those at the Greater Haitian American Chamber of Commerce.
"We want to be recognized as someone that is a part of American production," said Jean Garcon, who is an advisor for the Chamber.
Garcon said many Americans are just unaware of the many contributions Haitians have made across the country both before and after the 2010 earthquake devastated their homeland.
Fellow advisor Marie Jose Francois agreed.
"We are proud of who we are, we are professional," Francois said. "I can see we have an ignorant president."
Francois came to Orlando from Haiti in 1983 and says to hear what President Trump said about her country hurt.
But she said it's proof Trump and many others are misinformed about the contributions many Haitians have made to their communities. She says many may think Haitian refugees are poor and uneducated, but she says both her daughter and her husband have Ph. D.s and have professional jobs in the world of medicine and engineering.
That is the message Haitian leaders presented outside Orlando City Hall Friday evening. They gathered together outside to make a unified statement, before moving inside to honor and remember those killed by the earthquake in their homeland eight years ago.
"We are here today to let the world know who we are as Haitians," said Jacky Cheri with the United Haitians Living Abroad. "Apparently President Trump has to open a book to learn about Haiti."
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