FORT MYERS, Fla., -- With music, food and fun, hundreds celebrated Haitian culture for the Haitian-American heritage month, Saturday. Attendees say the celebration helps them forget many of their families will be separated due to the non-renewal of the Temporary Protection Status.
“It’s moments like this, you see the people come out, their happy, they have a chance to put everything aside," said Beatrice Jacquet, leader of the Haitian-American Democratic Club in Lee County.
Last November, Homeland Security released this statement explaining why the decision was made to not renew TPS:
"Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.”
The decision will force thousands in Southwest Florida to be deported come June 2019.
For Jasen, 16, and his brother Peter, 17, they say they've watched first hand their friends separated from their loved ones and festivals like today help ease the tension.
“It makes us forget about what may happen, if it doesn’t go right," they explained. “Someone you see every day... and [then] one minute their just gone.”
Numerous politicians came out in support of the Haitian-American community. Nineteenth Congressional District Candidate, Todd Truax, says he believes the upcoming election will put them one step closer to keeping families together.
“We can start turning the tide and bringing back the social and economic social justice that we need in this community," said Truax.
For the two brothers, they say they just want the world to have compassion.
“You never know what might happen, some people have it harder than you.”
The celebration of Haitian-American heritage will continue through the end of May. Attendees tell Fox 4 Sunday is Haitian flag appreciation day.