Monestime: From Dreamer to Commissioner

Author:  Dawn A. Davis
The first Haitian-American to serve as Miami-Dade County Commissioner, Jean Monestime represents a culturally diverse community that encompasses parts of the City of Miami, North Miami Beach, Opa-locka, Hialeah, and unincorporated areas of Liberty City, Biscayne Gardens, and North Dade Central. So heterogenous is his constituency, Monestime refers to his district as “the United Nations of communities”. Indeed, the members that make up his locality are almost equal parts Haitian-American, African-America, Caucasian, Asian.

Commissioner Jean MonestimeMonestime, a former Miami-Dade public school teacher, Councilman, Vice Mayor, and beloved community leader, easily won the District 2 seat in 2010 and again in 2014 with a decisive victory. But, he worked hard to earn the respect, and votes, of the people.

Insight

His involvement in the community and active membership in organizations such as the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, African-American NON-GROUP Coalition, the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency, and others has also given him insight into issues, concerns, everyday life, and achievements among residents.

Monestime confirmed that among residents’ primary concerns are “quality of life, financial wellbeing, jobs, housing, and youth development”.  Indeed, under his leadership the Commissioner was able to create a resolution that would see juvenile first offenders given citations rather than criminal records that would follow them through life.

With a mantra to “focus on youth development”, Monestime has been working to build self esteem and inspire the next generation adding, “we were also able to get funding for 1300 youth summer jobs”.   Working on improving the supply of affordable housing is also an important initiative for the District 2 Commissioner.

“Creating wealth involves three things, family, business, and real estate. Part of creating wealth is about creating greater access for residents toward home ownership”, said Monestime.

To that end, Monestime and his team crafted legislation to ignite more home ownership in his constituency through a special housing fund. Besides, as a real estate executive and Haitian-born, the Commissioner knows the value most Caribbean nationals place on home ownership and stability.

Roots

But, some Haitian nationals do not have piece of mind when it comes to laying down roots in America. At issue and in focus now based on the new administration’s immigration policies is legal status among Haitian immigrants. Noting the fears and uncertainty, the Commissioner took action to sponsor a Miami-Dade legislative resolution imploring President Trump to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian nationals, which expires in July this year.

Another topical discussion is the possible termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order that was granted by then President Barack Obama in 2012 giving immigrant youth a reprieve against deportation.

Monestime, a ‘Dreamer’ himself, came to this country more than 30 years ago. Eventually becoming a resident then a citizen advocate, and later an elected advocate for rights and justice. He is indeed a poster boy for immigrant success in the United States. “What I would say to those who are worried about their status is, you have an advocate who is fighting for you. An advocate who was in your shoes, one that has the ability to work toward a solution”.

As Haitians celebrate Haitian Heritage month and Haitian Flag Day this month, Monestime urges his Haitian-born constituents to be inspired by their proud Haitian culture, continue to believe in family, and honor those in the wider community with that pride.

“Remember, your culture is your brand”, he said beaming.

Top