Philanthropic Responses to the Migrant and Refugee Humanitarian Crisis in the San Diego – Tijuana Border Region

The past week has seen an escalating humanitarian crisis right here on our doorstep. Given that San Diego Grantmakers is committed to advancing and promoting the rights of current and historically marginalized communities in San Diego and more broadly, the Cali-Baja border region by supporting policies and initiatives that address humanitarian issues, equity gaps and systemic opportunity, we are compelled by our values to highlight the issues and needs of those fleeing violence, persecution and extreme poverty to seek asylum and ultimately a better life for their families.

Three migrant camps have been established in the city of Tijuana (where 6,000 refugees from Central America have arrived, including thousands of women and children), yet the city does not have adequate financial resources nor social service programs to handle the influx of Central Americans on top of programs for the city’s marginalized populations. The camps are lacking critical infrastructure for basic sanitation, health, and food distribution sources. Recent border closures and the release of tear gas on men, women, and children highlight an escalating situation that will soon get out of control without adequate leadership, humanitarian assistance, and financial resources. The local business, religious, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors are mobilizing to improve the situation, yet more help is needed.

Discussing this crisis with key SDG members and grassroots organizations, we understand the situation will worsen with the arrival of the much-publicized exodus of Central American asylum seekers and migrants, including many families with young children. This is a complex and fast moving situation due its multi-faceted nature and its impact on communities on both sides of the border.

In response to this growing humanitarian crisis, organizations in San Diego need immediate resources to address the urgent needs facing asylum-seeking families. They also need support over the longer term to reframe the narrative on this exodus to reflect the voices and humanity of those affected. And they need to build the capacity of their individual organizations and the broader movement to craft a powerful, comprehensive, and locally led strategy to address long-term needs in the San Diego-Tijuana border region.

Information for Funders

Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) and Hispanics in Philanthropy have partnered to create a two-page brief on the situation and how funders can respond. Read it now

Address Immediate Needs
  • Operating support for the temporary shelter, specifically staffing and supplies for feeding shelter residents, cleaning, and logistics
  • Travel and communication expenses for families able to reunite with family or friends, including bus fare, meal support, phone cards, etc.
  • Health and social services, including mental health support, for arrivals needing immediate attention

The most critical action you can take is making immediate general operating grants because this will give organizations much-needed resources and the flexibility to adapt as the situation evolves day by day.

Here is how you and your family can give and help respond to this heartbreaking crisis.

In San Diego: You can give a donation to the San Diego Rapid Response, the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Charities – Travel Assistance Fund to respond to the needs of refugees arriving in San Diego.

In Tijuana: The International Community Foundation is accepting any and all donations to ICF’s Border Fund, which will fund grassroots organizations in Tijuana providing shelter, food, medicine, psychological support and legal services to the population of migrants and deportees in Tijuana.

Respond to Medium-Term Issues
  • General support for local immigrant-serving organizations to respond immediately to emergent crises in the region
  • Relocation support for arriving families that lack family or community ties in the United States
  • Legal services and representation for arriving families
  • Mental health and social services that support the ongoing needs of families
Invest in Long-Term Capacity, Strategies, and Movement Building
  • A permanent migrant shelter in San Diego, modeled after similar shelters in Texas, to provide essential transitional support to the ongoing flows of migrants to the region
  • Communications and advocacy to educate the public and policy makers on the true causes and human toll of this crisis
  • Narrative change to reshape perception of and discourse on Central American children, families, and individuals seeking refuge in the United States
  • Movement and capacity building for local organizations working in the San Diego-Tijuana region to increase their collective power to address long-term migration-related policy and systemic issues facing the region