Crisis at the Border

June 28, 2019

The number of immigrants and immigrant families seeking asylum has reached record highs. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security began busing and flying immigrants from areas on the border where they enter the United States to other towns deemed able to accommodate the overflowing populations.

“Our mission has always been to help people in need, and right now there is a huge need within our own country’s borders,” Kim Carroll, HHI CEO, said. “While we have not been able to provide hygiene items to every detention facility, we are helping thousands of people who have nothing, and we will not stop working to bring health to these people who desperately need it right now.”

In July, members of our disaster response team traveled to towns in Texas and southern New Mexico to meet with partners, including Save the Children and Catholic Charities, and other local community leaders to determine additional ways to provide assistance and deliver aid to asylum seekers who had been processed through Customs and Border Patrol and were on their ways to their U.S. sponsors. The health needs of the children and families in the temporary transit centers were immense.

We first began addressing this issue in 2014 with the onset of the unaccompanied minor crisis. initially worked the National Latino Evangelical Coalition as they were setting up housing facilities for unaccompanied minors in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Arizona and Texas.

We continued our work by providing hygiene kits, blankets, medicines and medical supplies to Save the Children and Catholic Charities.

How can I help?

Shipment of hygiene and other supplies sent to the border.

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Video: Inside a Haitian Refugee Camp

Watch this video to take a look inside the refugee crisis underway in Haiti.  HHI just made a delivery of hundreds of crisis kits filled with food and hygiene items.  There are more than 1,000 people in two camps.  We’re doing what we can to help. Our medical teams are there.  Our social workers are there.

People are in need. We are helping. You can too.



Learn more about the politics that are causing this refugee crisis and see the living conditions inside the camps.



Refugee Crisis Builds in Haiti

Since mid-June 2015, Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent have been pouring over the border into Haiti, fleeing the political climate in the Dominican Republic and the spectre of potential deportation.  Our Haiti medical teams are helping these refugees.

Haitians flee new immigration rules. Photo by Joshua Partlow / The Washington Post


The numbers vary tremendously.  As of mid-July, the Haitian government states about 20,000 have crossed over in the past month. The Dominican Republic government says more than 40,000 have left.  Whatever the true number, it’s a lot.  Now, approximately 1,100 of these new refugees are currently seeking shelter and aid in a region where Heart to Heart International medical teams normally operate clinic sites.


The Situation

This movement of people stems from recent political decisions in the Dominican Republic, the country that jointly occupies the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.  The long history between these island neighbors has been periodically tumultuous.  And, for a very long time, Haitians have gone to the Dominican Republic seeking work and a better life.

In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court ruled that people born between 1929 and 2010 in the country to non-citizen parents did not qualify as Dominican citizens. The decision effectively stripped tens of thousands of people of their nationality retroactively. – USA TODAY


The court ruling has been accused of rendering hundreds of thousands of people born in the Dominican Republic as “state-less”.  Following the ruling, the government created a process to allow people to prove they belong, to prove they are citizens.  The deadline to apply was June 17, 2015.  With it came veiled and overt threats of forced deportations.

While the Dominican Republic government states they have not begun any formal expulsions of undocumented Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, anywhere between 20,000 and 45,000 people have left – finding their own way or using government provided ‘voluntary’ transport – and crossed the Haitian border into the unknown.

Waiting in the Shade at Tete-a-l'eau Refugee Camp

Waiting in the shade at Tete-a-l’Eau Refugee Camp


Into the Desert

This is far southeast Haiti.  Here, along the border, the landscape is more desert-like than tropical Caribbean.  It’s hot and humid, but also dusty and dry.  It’s covered in scrub brush and cactus.  It is a harsh environment in the best of conditions.

Tens of thousands have crossed at other points along the north/south running border, and approximately 2,700 crossed in the area of Anse-à-Pitres, a small remote border town. Refugees who’ve come across here are directed to two camps – Tete-a-l’Eau (Tetalo) & Pascado.  These camps are a hodgepodge of rapidly made stick frame huts, some simply covered in cardboard, built on ground that has been burned clear.

A non-Haitian style hut in Tete-a-l'Eau refugee camp.

A non-Haitian style hut in Tete-a-l’Eau refugee camp.


Many of these refugees grew up in the DR, some were born there, and others are more recent immigrants seeking work, mostly hard labor jobs like cutting sugar cane.  Some have no connection to Haiti, other than their lineage.  Heart to Heart International social workers from the Kore Fanmi project recently conducted a survey of the people in these camps.  Here’s some of what they found:

  • In Pascado camp about a third were under the age of 14
  • In Tete-a-l’eau camp about 70% were born or grew up in the DR
  • More than half of those in Tete-a-l’eau had nowhere to go in Haiti

A few hundred do move back and forth across the border for work and to check on their homes and gardens, and then return seeking perceived safety and shelter on the Haitian side.

HHI-H's Christophe Rodrigue Addressing the Crowd at Tetalo Refugee Camp-1

Heart to Heart’s country director Christophe Rodrigue (in red shirt) addresses refugees in the Tete-a-l’Eau camp.


HHI Provides Aid

Our Haitian Medical Teams have visited these camps a handful of times on top of their normal clinic duties, providing care as they can in this remote region.  HHI has also taken on the task of funding and coordinating food for the two camps for approximately two months.  We’re also working on providing more and longer lasting services for the refugees by coordinating with other NGOs, aid groups and government agencies.

So far, our staff in Haiti reports that there appears to be no immediate end to this crisis.  We don’t know how long these camps may stay, or how many more people will arrive.  We do know that no matter why or what is making people cross the border – they need our help.

People are in crisis. We are helping.



More Photos from Refugee Camps on Haiti’s Border

Community leader Yvon Jean-Boni (on left) & Heart to Heart's Dr. Jackenson Davilmar at Tete-a-l'Eau Refugee Camp

Community leader Yvon Jean-Boni (on left) & Heart to Heart International’s Dr. Jackenson Davilmar at Tete-a-l’Eau Refugee Camp.


Burning the Underbrush at Pascado Refugee Camp

Underbrush burns at the Pascado refugee camp site in preparation of building more shelters.


Cardboard 'hut' at Pascado Refugee Camp

Cardboard covered hut at Pascado Refugee Camp.


Huts under Construction at Tetalo Refugee Camp-3

Stick frame huts under construction at the Tete-a-l’Eau Refugee Camp.


Backdrop of the Far Wall of the River bordering the DR at Tetalo Refugee Camp

The Tete-a-l’Eau refugee camp under a river bluff marking the border with the Dominican Republic.


A Crowd is Gathering at Tetalo Refugee Camp-2

A crowd gathers to listen to HHI’s Haiti country director in the Tete-a-l’Eau refugee camp.



Sending Aid for the “Border Children”

If you’re familiar with Heart to Heart International, you know that above all, we are committed to helping those in need.

This is why we’ve been working to provide aid for many of the children that for whatever reason have come across our nation’s borders from Central America in recent months.

They’re children.  And they need the care HHI can help to provide.


While the ‘surge’ of unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border has substantially reduced in recent weeks, and the news coverage has ‘moved on’, there are still thousands of children being housed in a variety of facilities in states across the country, as they await the disposition of their status in the US.

border_children_shipment  1In recent days, utilizing our partnership with FedEx, we’ve sent several hundred hygiene kits and blanket kits to be distributed to children in seven states.  Our largest shipment is heading to a facility in Texas – two pallets filled with J&J Hygiene Kits, assembled by volunteers at our Global Distribution Center (GDC).

We’ve also sent a dozen smaller shipments of the Hygiene Kits along with J&J One Child, One Blanket Kits, which are also assembled by volunteers at the GDC.  These have gone to shelters in six other states: California, Illinois, New York, Florida, Arizona and Colorado.  And once they arrive, these kits will go directly into the hands of a child in need so they can wash and keep clean, and wrap up in a warm blanket as they wait to learn where they’ll go next.