MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have made multiple campaign stops in South Florida which is no surprise because Florida is a critical battle ground state but this year, the candidates are also focusing their attention on South Florida's Caribbean-American population.
On Wednesday, November 2nd, Hillary Clinton made a surprise visit to Lauderhill, where there is a large Caribbean American population. She is also making a pitch on local Haitian radio stations and newspapers catering to the Haitian community.
She's not alone. In September Donald Trump became the first presidential candidate to ever visit Little Haiti.
The time and attention paid by both campaigns to woo Haitian voters is part of a larger strategy targeting Caribbean Americans are one of the fastest growing communities in the state.
"We do vote," said Anika Omphroy, a first generation Jamaican-American voter. "My community is the Caribbean American community. We are a lively colorful bunch. We are Jamaican; we are everything that adds every spice to South Florida."
In the past, political campaigns tended to overlook the black Caribbean vote by lumping them in with U.S. born African-Americans. This year, however, both campaigns are targeting their message.
"I think we are going to see a surprise in November," said Michael Barnett, Chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party. He convinced Florida Governor Rick Scott to visit a Haitian church as part of his 2014 campaign.
"After that you couldn't keep Scott or his surrogates out of black churches. They were going every weekend," said Barnett.
Gov. Scott garnered an unprecedented 12-percent of the black vote in 2014, double what he received in 2010.
Barnett said Caribbean voters are open to listening to what Republicans have to say because their history and experiences are different than American-born blacks who are engrained with a deep distrust for the Republican party going back to the 1960s when Republicans opposed the civil rights movement.
"They don't come to the United States with the prejudices of the Republican Party," said Barnett.
Meantime, Clinton's relationship with Haiti is a complicated one.
"It's a relationship that used to be very strong and today that relationship has been bruised, splintered and that relationship is going to have to be rebuilt," said Jacqueline Charles, the Caribbean correspondent for CBS4 News partner the Miami Herald. "That's not to say that Haitians are suddenly are going to go vote for Donald Trump or vote Republican but they are saying to Democrats, 'Hey if you want our vote you are going to have to fight for our vote'."
Never the less, Democrats still have a distinct advantage with Haitians, Jamaicans and other arrivals from the islands because of its views on immigration especially compared to Donald Trump.
It isn't just immigration, first and second generation Caribbean-Americans have a hard time relating to Trump's dark view of America because to them, America is already great.
"We want to be able to pursue our dreams and America is the land of dreams, of opportunities, and it is an amazing place to be and so in order to make sure it stays amazing we have to participate in the political process and I believe that is where Secretary Clinton hits it every time. She understands that it takes all of us to make this a better place," said Omphroy.
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