By Shelly-Ann M. Parkinson Photos by Spex @spexphoto
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Cap Haitien, Haiti.
What was your upbringing like?
I grew up in a Christian family, where very early, my parents instilled in me strong moral values and the importance of having a strong faith in God to tackle the challenges of life. My parents took education very seriously. They sent me to the best schools in Haiti. I went to “College Notre Dame du Perpetuel Secours”, a premier high school in Cap-Haitien directed by Canadian priests. Many of Haiti’s presidents and leaders attended that school.
Tell me a bit about your education.
When I came to the US in the late 1980s, education was my number-one priority. I went to Miami-Dade College, where I got an associate degree in 18 months. This was followed by a bachelor’s degree in administration at Florida International University, a master’s degree at Barry University and a Juris Doctorate degree at Nova Southeastern University, where I graduated “Cum Laude” in July 2003. I sat for the Florida bar exam in September of 2003 and passed the first time. I have been practicing law ever since. I give God credit for helping me achieve that milestone.
How important is it to you to be Haitian?
It is extremely important. We come from the first Black republic. Our ancestors were never afraid to fight for what was rightfully theirs.
What factors motivated you to go to law school?
Law school was not my first choice. My parents wanted me to be a physician. However, I always wanted to fight for justice. When I came to South Florida, I remembered watching the images of Haitian migrants being handcuffed and taken to Krome Detention in South Dade. I remembered a reporter calling them “boat people.” This was offensive to me. It impacted me very strongly. I wanted to make a difference and fight for those who could not defend themselves.
I was drawn to law school in order to be an advocate for the voiceless.
What type of law do you practice?
A variety. I handle divorce, criminal, foreclosure, and contract law, but my focus has really been on immigration law and racial discrimination. With regard to immigration, I practice law in several states. I have the privilege to represent clients in California, New York, Texas, Connecticut, New Jersey, Philadelphia, etc. I do fly to Haiti to help clients with immigration issues.
How many languages do you speak fluently?
Four: English, French, Creole, and Spanish. I do have a good clientele of Spanish-speaking clients that I help.
Is there any case that you are particularly proud of?
Yes, there is one that has been in national news. I am currently working on a very big case in which a group of Haitians were all fired from a major hotel chain in South Beach, Florida, at the same time. They were all replaced by Hispanic workers the same day. They were subjected to derogatory name-calling by their superiors and were all treated unfairly. This group wanted to be represented by a Haitian lawyer who they could trust, and I am so honored that they chose me. We filed a claim with the EEOC, which after several months of investigation found that there was reasonable cause to believe that they were discriminated against. Then the Federal government decided to sue this hotel chain for the alleged racial discrimination. Litigation is still pending, but we feel very confident. Nothing will bring me more joy than to see justice being administered.
Are you involved in anything else that our readers should know about?
Yes, I am very involved in helping my people back in Haiti. I helped with the renovation of a church that is dear to me. It is the Bethlehem Church in Quartier-Morin, Haiti. I am working on putting a computer lab in that church facility to help connect Haitians there with the world. I also host a weekly radio show every Friday on 1700 AM radio in Miami titled “Legal Advice.” I am also on 1320 AM every morning with “Piment Bouk” to discuss current immigration issues with the Haitian community. Both shows can be accessed via the internet and can be heard in Haiti and as far away as France.
Do you have a favorite quote that helps to define your personal philosophy?
Yes, I do. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
What do you do for fun?
I love spending time with family. I travel quite often. I love scuba diving and playing sports. I will be working soon on my pilot license. That is my other passion. I love flying.
Law Offices of Ariol Eugene, P.A.
9999 NE 2nd Ave, Suite 213, Miami Shores, Florida 33138
400 North State Road seven, Suite 208
Lauderdale Lakes, Florida 33130