“Most of the people are going to stay put – watch and see,” said Caribbean-born Anthony Bernard, owner of the Miami, Florida-based firm A. Bernard Financial Services, which lists Caribbean Americans among its clientele. Some have expressed apprehension over what Trump will offer. They cringed during his campaign when he alluded to violence and promised to deport millions of undocumented U.S. residents, including Caribbean nationals.
A Trump spokesperson recently made clear the new president would quickly eliminate many of outgoing President Barack Obama’s executive orders, possibly including one which protects an estimated 741,000 children who arrived in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told ABC’s “This Week” program that Trump will "repeal a lot of the regulations and actions that have been taken by this (Obama) administration over the last eight years that have hampered both economic growth and job creation." Trump also vowed to ban Muslims from the U.S. and even lock up his main election rival Hillary Clinton. He was also slow to condemn white supremacists and was also accused of racist comments.
Speculation swirled that Caribbean Americans might flee the country if Trump won. Sir Hilary Beckles, chancellor of the University of the West Indies, for example, believes the Caribbean should be on the alert for a flood of returning nationals in the Trump era as president. “You will witness the return of many Caribbean citizens out of North America and we have to prepare ourselves for return migration,” Beckles said in November. “Understand that these are going to be the forces that will be unleashed.”
But although heated discussions have been raised, there is no hard evidence mass migration back to the Caribbean is on the immediate horizon.
“Some are concerned and they talk about it,” Bernard said, “but they are still here.”
Yet since the Nov. 8 election, many Caribbean Americans have been unnerved by U.S. intelligence reports of election interference by Russian hackers to support the Republican Trump’s winning bid, especially after his now sidelined Democratic rival Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million.
Some of Trump’s Cabinet nominees have made Caribbean Americans uncomfortable, including potential Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who once condemned the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). A litany of billionaires with hard line political connections have also been appointed, despite Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of cronyism in Washington, D.C., and a few well-known war hawks have been sprinkled in as well.
Trump’s promise to ramp up U.S. nuclear arsenal has some dreading another Cold War arms race. His conduct has also raised eyebrows on other fronts, such as failing to make public his income tax returns, securing millions in campaign funding for own personal businesses, potential conflicts of interests with his children jockeying for positions in the White House, cozying up to Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin, confronting China, allegations of fraudulent business practices and sexual abuse, and extending an invitation to a Philippines president who confesses to being a killer.
Trump’s incessant Tweeting, publicly tangling over seemingly trivial matters, such as his portrayal on a television comedy show, has also been disconcerting, even among supporters. His outbursts have often had to be explained or even walked back by surrogates. Trump’s promise to gut “Obamacare”, while not slowing the registration of the government-backed health insurance program, has also made many nervous.
However, a continuous solid U.S. relationship with the Caribbean is key to the region’s survival. So some Caribbean nationals have openly embraced Trump’s elevation to the U.S. presidency. Tourism interests, for example, have already publicly called for rallying to the new U.S. government so as not to disrupt the region’s lifeblood.
Most Caribbean political leaders have fallen in line following Trump’s election, vowing willingness to strengthen ties with the U.S. after his swearing in. “My Government and I look forward to working closely with you and the members of your administration on initiatives of mutual interest to our countries,” Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart wrote to Trump shortly after the presidential election.
“(Grenada is looking) forward to continued strong relations with Washington under the new administration,” said Prime Minister Keith Mitchell.
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris gushed with praise for Trump in anticipation of his impact on the Caribbean. “Your stirring message of change has energized and electrified the American electorate and changed the political playbook,” said Harris.
Rank and file Caribbean nationals, however, may have a different view. In a poll commissioned by the Royal Gazette newspaper in Bermuda, for example, at least 45 percent claimed Trump will negatively impact the country. Only eight percent believed his impact would be positive, with 36 percent unsure. The majority of Bermudians wanted Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the election, according to the newspaper.
Doubts about Trump were not limited to Caribbean nationals. In a Gallup poll released at the beginning of 2017, only 46 percent of people in the U.S. were optimistic he could properly deal with international crisis. Less than half those polled – 47 percent – trust Trump will be smart in his use of the U.S. military. Forth-four percent think Trump will be unable to prevent huge scandals in his administration. And, according to the poll, he had the lowest favourability rating of any president-elect.
Trump did receive support from some Caribbean nationals in the U.S., who argued his “outsider” presence in the political arena represents positive change. His record as a businessman gave them hope of a U.S. job boom. Others were simply unhappy with the alternative. Many Haitian Americans in South Florida, for example, made it clear before the election that they felt betrayed by Clinton, accusing her and husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, of dishonesty in their dealings with Haiti.
Yet most Caribbean nationals in the U.S. appear still wary of Trump. He openly backed police officers when young black men – mostly unarmed - were being regularly killed on America’s streets by law enforcement. How Trump will address that, if at all, is one more issue placing them in caution mode. “We still have to live here,” said Bernard. “We’ll see.”