‘They are in despair’: Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary makes a plea for Haitian migrants

LITTLE HAITI, Fla. – Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary said it pained him to learn that about 200 migrants from Haiti had ventured into the high seas in a small sailboat to reach the Florida Keys.

Jean-Mary, of the Notre Dame D’Haiti Catholic Church in Miami’s Little Haiti, is aware of the rise of migrants who are risking their lives in search of safety and opportunity.

“The whole situation is being driven by the insecurity, where people cannot even do anything for themselves,” Jean-Mary said about the crisis in Haiti. “They are in despair and they want a life. That’s human nature. They are in search of a better way of living to bring meaning to their life and a better way of being what God wants them to be.”

FILE - Haitians wait to cross the border between Dominican Republic and Haiti in Dajabon, Dominican Republic, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The group of about 200, including women and children, arrived early Monday morning. Some were dehydrated and hungry after their vessel ran aground on a sandbar near Islamorada.

“Haiti has been going through that social, political, and economical crisis especially because of the inflation the country is going through,” Jean-Mary said. “They feel that the only way for them to survive is to exit, to go out.”

Haitians protest the murder of journalist Romelo Vilsaint and the rise in crime and insecurity on Oct. 30, 2022, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP Foto/Ramon Espinosa) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Some of the migrants jumped off the boat, but the current swept them under the Whale Harbor Bridge. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents threw a line down to help rescue the migrants out of the water.

“Most of them are professionals, especially young people, and you can see that they are hopeless,” Jean-Mary said. “Coming to the states with no legal documents and they cannot find work. They don’t know what’s going to happen to them ... “They are forced to leave their country, to leave their universities, to leave their jobs to come to the States.”

A man runs away with looted goods during a protest against fuel price hikes and to demand that Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry step down, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The desperation also applies to migrants from Cuba, Venezuela, and other places. Records show that since Oct. 1, U.S. Border Protection agents have encountered more than 14,000 migrants at landings in South Florida.

“People are not living in Haiti, they just exist in Haiti, there is no life in Haiti,” Jean-Mary said. “They are just in a state of survival.”

A youth suffering cholera symptoms is helped upon arrival at a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. For the first time in three years, people in Haiti have been dying of cholera, raising concerns about a potentially fast-spreading scenario and reviving memories of an epidemic that killed nearly 10,000 people a decade ago. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

It’s a 730% increase from the same time last year.

“We ask that every person of good faith and good conscience continue to be a voice for the voiceless and especially those desperate people who are forced to leave their homeland so that they can go after a better way of living and in search of a better life,” Jean-Mary said.


About the Author:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.