On Saturday, June 15, 2019, the Haitian Lawyers Association joined Broward County Vice Mayor Dale Holness and the Florida Immigrant Coalition in the Vice Mayor’s citizenship clinic at the Lauderhill Mall in Broward County, Florida. The event was aimed at assisting permanent residents with completing their citizenship applications to provide them with access in joining our unparalleled American family. Unfortunately, this event soon turned sour after a bystander began harassing attendants for seeking to legally change citizenship status. A woman—claiming that the clinic was an illegal effort by Democrats to influence Florida elections—filmed permanent residents getting help with their citizenship applications. The live-streamed recording gave viewers the impression that the woman was uncovering wrongdoing by the clinic organizers.

Frankly, these actions were an attempt to censure the information available to prospective American citizens and frighten and discourage them from exercising their right to legally apply for naturalization. Our organization recognizes the moral dilemma inherent in giving undue attention to this woman’s actions. Evermore important, however, is our responsibility to dispel any misinformation or notion of illegality that could intimidate prospective Americans from exercising the rights that Congress afforded them under the Immigration and Nationality Act; especially during a week when the Trump administration has promised to remove “millions of illegal aliens.” The citizenship clinic was legally organized in a public forum and we formally denounce the actions of a misguided person in vilifying immigrants and spreading misinformation about the clinic along with the actions of any others who may be inspired by them.

The Haitian Lawyers Association would like to thank all of the volunteers and members of the community who showed up to help support immigrants seeking to engage in the naturalization process. Although an individual sought to misinform and distract, we are happy that we were able to further engage members of the community who would help to ensure that our nation continues to grow and prosper. We remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the rights of immigrants and our members stand ready, willing, and able to ensure that they are treated justly.