Haitian-American attorney and political advisor Karen Andre was recently appointed as special assistant for presidential personnel in the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris administration.
With her appointment, Andre joins the slew of Caribbean Americans in the White House, alongside Karine Jean-Pierre, Kristen Clarke, Susan Rice, and of course, Vice President Kamala Harris. Andre is the first person of Haitian descent to hold this position.
The Biden/Harris team said Andre joins “a historic and barrier-breaking White House and the administration that looks like America and is ready to deliver results for working families on day one.”
The Haitian American was born in New York to Haitian immigrant parents but was raised—and attended school and college—in Florida. She has served as a state-level political operative in various roles since 2004 but her real mission was to find a way to help Black people in meaningful ways. Andre said that during her first semester at Florida International University, her priority was to find a major “that would empower me to help Black people.” She eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.
Andre then went on to pursue a law degree at the University of Miami School of Law. She said she was inspired by legal giants such as Thurgood Marshall, the first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Nelson Mandela, who started out as an attorney.
Upon graduation from law school in the late 1990s, she worked with legislators and stakeholders to help lobby and pass the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998. Next, she practiced immigration law in Miami, Florida before returning to work in the political field.
Between 2003 and 2004, she worked as a community outreach director for Congressman Peter Deutsch in Florida, after which she served as the political director for the SEIU Florida Healthcare Union.
While working in law, Karen Andre used her degree to advocate for immigrants in the Haitian-American community nationwide. She says one of her proudest moments came in 2008 when she organized a multicultural group of pro bono attorneys to successfully represent 28 high school students facing criminal felony charges stemming from a disturbance between students and police at a high school in Miami.
After a massive earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010, Andre also co-chaired the Miami Haitian Relief task force. Under her guidance, the task force helped to organize a humanitarian airlift of much-needed food, water and medical supplies to Haiti. Andre later co-founded Konbit Haiti, a non-profit organization geared at helping with the post-earthquake redevelopment of Haiti.
During President Obama’s first election campaign, Andre closed her law offices to serve as a field organizer for the ‘Obama for America’ campaign in the poorest parts of Miami. In 2011, she worked with his campaign for a second time as the Florida deputy political director. She stayed close to the Obama administration and was later appointed to serve on the 57th Presidential Inaugural Committee for Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.
From 2014 to 2017, Andre served as a presidential appointee in the Obama-Biden administration as the White House Liaison to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
After President Obama exited the White House, she served as senior advisor to Andrew Gillum in his primary campaign which led to his nomination as the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida in 2018.
In the most recent presidential election, Andre worked as a senior advisor to the Biden-Harris Campaign in Florida and for the campaign’s National Faith Outreach. Prior to her role on the campaign, she served as a political director of Organizing Together 2020 in Florida.
Karen Andre, who is also a public speaker and author, is currently the president of People First Strategies, where she establishes and maintains partnerships in the public, private and philanthropic sectors. She is one of the founding members of the Haitian Ladies Network and remains proactive among the Caribbean-American community in Florida.