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How To Help Mexican Migrants

by | Jul 13, 2022

As the world’s busiest land-crossing, the San Diego-Tijuana border has always been a highly dynamic region of cross-border activity; yet changes in U.S. policies such as metering and the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), and with the Mexican government’s complicity, the border region is increasingly becoming a destination for people on the move. U.S. policies have made it difficult for migrants, asylum seekers and deportees to enter or re-enter the United States, thus separating families, limiting the number of people processed at ports of entry, prolonging detention, and narrowing the grounds of eligibility for asylum. These vulnerable groups that are trying to cross the border include women escaping gender-based violence, LGBTQ people fleeing persecution, and families seeking better living conditions and protection from gang violence. 

At the border, most migrants, asylum seekers and deportees are facing a precarious situation. They are encountering a shortage of shelter space and lacking access to other basic needs including food, water, clothing, hygienic products, legal services, and proper health care. In addition, they run the risk of becoming victims to serious crimes such as kidnapping, sexual assault, and other forms of violence. Migrant children and adolescents, including deported youth have also not been able to receive quality education and other learning opportunities. 

Education for Migrant Children & Adults

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, education is an essential tool for the protection of human dignity. When people are forced to flee from violence or persecution, or simply because they want to improve their socio-economic condition, their human rights are at- risk, particularly their access to education. One way to help families and children at the border is to provide them with education. Receiving an education is one of the most effective ways for migrants and refugees to become full members of their host countries. ‘Regularized’ migrant workers and their children benefit intellectually and socially from attending school, where they learn about their new community and gain a semblance of normality in their lives. Meanwhile, as the period of time that asylum-seekers must wait in Tijuana to apply for asylum in the U.S. continues to increase, they need access to language courses and basic schooling, at the bare minimum. Possible interventions to be supported by the Border Fund include:  Adult and Youth Job Training and Workforce Development programs;  Adult and Youth English language training, particularly for migrants seeking asylum in the United States;  Formalized Education Programs for migrant Children & Youth.

Health Care For Migrants At The Border

A rapid increase of population movement has significant implications for both the migrants and their receiving communities, such as Tijuana and San Diego. In order to make an impact when it comes to helping families at the border, it requires an adequate response from the public education and health sectors, to ensure that all people enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as established in the World Health organization’s Constitution and international human rights standards and conventions. 

 Nevertheless, many refugees, migrants and first-responders in Tijuana continue to lack access to health services, particularly trauma-informed mental health services. Possible interventions to be supported by the Border Fund include:  Mental health/psychological services for migrant adults, children, and first responders working directly with these populations (lawyers, staff at shelters, etc);  Mobile Health Clinics and Medical Supplies for the network of shelters.

 Migrant Legal Services and Advocacy

According to the United Nations High Commissioner, “migrants in an irregular situation tend to be disproportionately vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and marginalization, often 3 living and working in the shadows, afraid to complain, and denied their human rights and fundamental freedoms. (…) The denial of migrants’ rights is often closely linked to discriminatory laws and to deep-seated attitudes of prejudice or xenophobia 1.” In accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ICF seeks to promote, protect and fulfill the human rights of all migrants, particularly the most vulnerable populations including indigenous populations, victims of trafficking or abuse, and those who identify as LGBTQI, for instance.

Creating Capacity & Infrastructure for Migrants

 Changes in the enforcement of U.S. immigration policy have always had an impact on the civil society organizations in border cities like Tijuana and San Diego. However, the recent large influx of deportees and ‘caravans’ have exposed the lack of permanent physical infrastructure in Tijuana, such as shelters, food, water, and medicine to meet the demand. There is a need to improve infrastructure to help migrants and children at the border to ensure they’re safe and healthy. Since 2016, most shelters remain at-capacity; many lack basic hygiene and clean water and struggle to provide basic food and medical treatment for their residents. Meanwhile, the institutional capacity of these organizations is also suffering to keep up with the ongoing needs. They need assistance identifying and securing new funding, increasing human capital to avoid burnout, and stronger program leadership. Investments in both capacity building and infrastructure will enable these organizations to be more effective and sustainable in the long-run, thus strengthening the resilience of the community/city of Tijuana to meet ongoing needs

Cultural Inclusion & Equity

In response to the violence in their home communities, and in order to protect themselves during the dangerous trek to the US border, we have seen that migrants are increasingly seeking safety in numbers. Though ‘migrant caravans’ had been seen before, in October 2018, a caravan of 3,000-5,000 migrants departed Honduras, capturing international attention and inspiring further caravans to organize. These caravans have increased the visibility of migrants and their struggles, but also better-positioned migrants to denounce abuses. Unfortunately, the migrants’ collective mobility has also sparked a public backlash and exposed the growing stigmatization and criminalization of migrants and their defenders in both Mexico and the U.S. As proponents of cultural inclusion and equity throughout our work, ICF seeks to counter this divisive narrative and protect the human rights of all people in our border region.

Donate To Help Migrants At The Border

ICF is committed to identifying existing resources, fostering collaboration between diverse stakeholders, and leveraging new resources in order to strengthen the current support system and provide holistic programs that ensure the wellbeing, health and dignity of all residents in our border community. 

We will continue to uplift and elevate the voices of vulnerable communities in the border region. Many shelters in Tijuana are operating at‐capacity and are struggling to meet ongoing needs for their growing populations of residents. Migrants and refugees, regardless of where they’re from and their intended length of stay, need water, food, shelter, quality education, medical assistance and legal support. This network of approximately 30 nonprofit migrant shelters whose staff are making things happen with very little resources, are the key point of contact for information sharing and engagement with people on the move in Tijuana. Click here to donate and support ICF’s endless efforts to work with and strengthen the resilience of shelters and organizations that are working to provide migrants and refugees with basic needs, quality education, health and legal services, and overall protection of their human rights. 


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