Jamaicans in US displaying Unprecedented Interest in Elections

If Jamaicans in the United States have their way on November 8, 2016, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will be America’s first woman president.

Hilary Clinton

There are no public opinion polls among the Jamaican nationals here, but the heads of key organization representing them said they were displaying unprecedented interest in the November 8, 2016 elections and breaking overwhelmingly for Clinton over Republican nominee Donald Trump in early voting in several states.

In interviews with the Jamaica Observer, Diaspora leaders have revealed that Trump’s hard-line position on immigration was the single most important issue driving the interest among Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals in the highly explosive US elections.

Wayne Golding, an attorney who heads the Diaspora Advisory Board for the Southern US, said that there was “almost 100 per cent engagement of Jamaicans” in the battleground state of Florida, where “grave concerns over Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric” was pushing away West Indian voters from the candidate..

“The Republican Party has not endeared itself to Jamaicans,” Golding said, arguing that Clinton had made direct efforts to reach out to Caribbean nationals, including Jamaicans and was earning almost universal support among them.

Golding also noted that many Jamaican and other Caribbean nationals had been employed by the Clinton campaign in the sunshine state, which is seen as a must-win for Trump who trails in some polls or is tied with Clinton in others.

The Diaspora Advisory Board for the Southern US covers Florida, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.

President of the Atlanta Jamaican Association (AJA) in Georgia, Allan Stewart said Jamaicans there and elsewhere “are taking the elections seriously”. Members of the AJA had volunteered to assist people in providing transportation to polling booths and were urging those in need to call 615-678-3823.

Stewart also cited immigration as the most important concern among “not only Jamaicans, but others from the Caribbean” because of fears that a Trump win would be disastrous for Caribbean immigrants whose overwhelming preference is for the United States.

Joan Pinnock, who heads the Jamaican American Bar Association for the north-east US, concurred that the interest of Jamaicans in that region in the election “is at a high level”, and expectedly listed “immigration and deportation as matters of grave concern”.

Pinnock, who also heads the Diaspora Board for the North East US, disclosed that the body “has been engaged in assisting citizenship matters as well as registering people to vote”.

The North East Diaspora Board covers New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Rhode Island, Massachussetts, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, where the largest concentration of Jamaicans outside of the island can be found.

Meanwhile, president of the Jamaican Association of Northern California, Denise McCalla Creary, said it was difficult to gauge the level of engagement of Jamaicans due to “the relatively small population” and the fact that they are widely dispersed across the area. But she expressed confidence that “they will be voting in the election”.

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