COVID-19  Mexico Project #34181

Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis

by International Community Foundation
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis
Support Vulnerable Families During COVID-19 Crisis



Tijuana's small, but mighty network of civil society organizations have been welcoming migrants and deportees to ensure their basic needs are met. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has directly impacted millions of people's lives in Tijuana and the U.S.-Mexico border region. Since March 15, ICF has granted over $500,000 to local nonprofits to provide food, medicine, and legal services to vulnerable migrants and deportees in Tijuana. Please help us unite, inspire, and provide hope to our nearest neighbors. 


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit border activity and stall immigration proceedings, thousands of immigrants and refugees are stuck at the US-Mexico border waiting for legal status. Lack of access to healthcare, food and employment opportunities means they are more vulnerable than ever. Meanwhile, shelters struggle to maintain social distancing guidelines while providing for their basic needs. As Tijuana's COVID cases rise and the health system is overwhelmed, immigrant families are at highest risk!


ICF is accepting donations to support organizations in Tijuana that will help provide urgent medical supplies and PPE such as masks for hospitals and clinics; IT support and supplies for nonprofits providing critical services to immigrants such as legal counsel, psychological aid, and educational programs for kids and adults; emergency food and basic supplies for vulnerable families; & funds for salaries, rent, utilities and scholarships to help nonprofits survive funding cuts due to COVID-19.

Long-Term Impact

Since 2018, ICF has granted over $600,000 to local nonprofits supporting migrants and asylum seekers in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. Now, COVID-19 presents new challenges for this population. From our base in San Diego, ICF is committed to providing critical needs like food and medical supplies, and long-term support during the recovery which may include legal services to families, mental health support, job recovery, and ongoing basic needs like shelter, food, and medical treatment.


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Health Services in Mexico
Health Services in Mexico

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted communities significantly. These communities have been deprived of their income, food, and access to health services. 

As the pandemic unfolder, ICF collaborated with its local nonprofit parnters not onlyin Mexico, but also throughout Latin America and Canada, and locally in its homestate of California. Partnering with local partners, provided ICF the opportunity to address the issues of these communities.

In the past few months, ICF has provided over $3,211,000 in funding to multiple local nonprofit parnters. These parnters have addressed the following critical needs:



  •  Food Distribution Centers in Tijuana to support medical workers and community members
  •  Distributing hygiene and protective supplies, including face masks




  • Provided emergency food assistance to over 1,000 families in Retalhuleu and Puerto Barrios




  • Support for a Women and Children shelter




  • Provided emergency food distribution




  • Provided emergency food distribution

Continuing to support ICF's and its local partners will provide immediate needs such as food relief, medical supplies as well as resources for multiple communities.

Medical Supply distribution in Mexico
Medical Supply distribution in Mexico
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Since early 2018, the ICF Border Fund has been dedicated to grassroots organizations responding to the basic needs of a growing population of vulnerable migrants and deportees in Tijuana, providing shelter, food, medicine, psychological support and legal services. In 2019, with generous support from donors including the GlobalGiving community, ICF has made over $500,000 in grants directly supporting approximately 30 local organizations in Tijuana and Mexicali.

Many of these are grassroots nonprofits, such as Casa Arco Iris or CIELO, led by committed volunteers who aren't earning any compensation for their time. Some, like Espacio Migrante, are co-founded or led by migrants who have decided to settle in Tijuana. Having immigrants in leadership roles within the civil society not only strengthens the quality and success of programs; it also builds resilience within the social fabric of the broader Tijuana community, so that they can better respond to future needs. 

Other grantees, such as Asylum Access and Glasswing International are international organizations who have brought proven and tested appraoches to the region, always in consultation and partnership with local leadership and communities. 

Additionally, since April 2019 we have hosted 12 training and technical assistance sessions, including 6 convenings to facilitate collaboration between local leadership. 

Topics of discussion have included trainings in human rights for shelter operators, best practices for self-care and wellness, legal regulations/best-practices for shelter management, as well as strategic planning to address key challenges that the sector faces including, access to consistent psychological services, access to educational programs, and integration of migrants and deportees. Both trainings to date have been well attended with 30 plus participants at each.

Given the enthusiasm and continued interest of the local civil society, ICF is committed to offering these convenings on a bimonthly basis in 2020,with the objective of: a) Provide a space for co-learning and resource sharing; b) Identify and offer technical capacity building trainings; and c) Develop a shared vision and strategy amongst the local nonprofits for improving the quality of life for migrants and refugees in the California-Mexico border.


Together with an experienced immigration and community rights organizer and our local partners with the goal of developing long-term resilience and systems for receiving an ever-growing migrant population. 

As the region faces new and uncertain challenges, such as the COVID-19 virus and the US Supreme Court ruling on legality of the "Migrant Protection Protocol" which has resulted in over 60,000 asylum seekers residing in border cities in Mexico, there is more urgency than ever to strengthen the resilience of the infrastructure and capacity of civil society in TIjuana/Mexicali. 


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Migrant families are fed at a shelter in Tijuana
Migrant families are fed at a shelter in Tijuana

In September we reported that US immigration courts face a backlog of apx. 436,000 asylum requests, and most of these people are waiting their turn in Mexican border cities like Tijuana and Mexicali. Now, due to the rapid implementation of the "Migrant Protection Protocol" (better known as the "Remain in Mexico" program), the number of vulnerable people waiting in Baja California has increased dramatically, with an estimated more than 64,000 asylum seekers now forced to wait out their cases in border cities of Mexico, where they have limited access to U.S. lawyers and transportation to appear at their trials in the U.S.

Additionally, due to these policies of deterrence, the Mexican government has reported that over 60,000 people have applied for asylum in Mexico, up from only 2,100 in 2014. Given this rapid shift in demographics and needs, it’s no surprise that the Mexican government and society were ill-prepared to meet these needs.

Nonetheless, regardless of their legal status or background, these individuals and families need help accessing shelter, food, and medical care, as well as victimization by organized crime and xenophobic community members, not to mention sometimes their own perpetrators from their home countries.

Over the past year, ICF’s generous donors have allowed us to invest in necessary basic infrastructure in Tijuana through local nonprofit organizations such as Espacio Migrante, 4Walls International/Albergue El Puente, and Casa Arcoiris. Medical partners such as Fronteras Unidas Pro-Salud and Casa del Centro (Seeds of Dignity) are providing urgent medical services and leading preventative/public health campaigns that directly improve the health of not only individual migrants, but of the whole city.

Finally, through monthly meetings of nonprofit leaders working with migrants and a few technical trainings, ICF has invested in the capacity of the local nonprofits who are truly the only ones meeting these urgent needs.

Most of these individuals and their volunteers or staff have been working tirelessly to meet the increasing demands for their services since early 2018. When we asked during a recent meeting what they like to do “for fun”, there was a deafening silence, before someone spoke up to share that they don’t have time for fun. This is one anecdotal but alarming indicator of the direct impact that U.S. and Mexican immigration policies are having on border communities, and these impacts will be long-lasting.  

Like their beneficiaries, these individuals are exhausted, have experienced secondary psychological trauma, and are in desperate need of tools and resources for self-care, in order to continue their critical work. 

For this reason, ICF is investing in trainings by reputable trauma-informed experts such as Capacitar International or a diploma in "first-aid for psychological trauma" offered by UC Berkeley and partners. We are also supporting the launch of Glasswing International’s program to train local public officials (at hospitals and schools for example) in best-practices for working with trauma-affected populations. And in 2020 we will continue to offer consistent, safe spaces for nonprofit leaders to come together and share their experiences and resources.

This holiday season, we ask you to consider investing in the well-being of our neighbors at the border. Whether they are migrant children and families, activists and volunteers, pro-bono lawyers, or even local business leaders – together we are all facing a humanitarian challenge at the border. And ICF is committed to helping provide solutions. Thank you and Happy Holidays!

Nonprofit leaders discuss ways to work together
Nonprofit leaders discuss ways to work together
Experts explain new USpolicies at Espacio Migrante
Experts explain new USpolicies at Espacio Migrante
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Rather than deter the flow of migrants, it appears that recently announced (or rumored) changes in the enforcement of U.S. asylum and immigration policy are increasing the rates at which vulnerable individuals and families are choosing to flee their countries of origin. Meanwhile, US immigration courts face a backlog of apx. 436,000 asylum requests, and most of these people are waiting their turn in Mexican border cities like Tijuana, who now must find the resources to provide shelter, food, and medical care for thousands of vulnerable new residents who come from all over the world.

Given their cultural differences and Tijuana's pre-existing social challenges like poverty and cartel violence, it is no surprise that tensions have been rising between local residents and newly arrived migrants in TIjuana.

But if undeterred, these tensions are dangerous that ultimately will impede the long-term peace needed to foster economic development and opportunity for everyone in the region. 

Fortunately, most local nonprofits and civic leaders in Tijuana/Mexicali recognize this danger and are tirelessly stepping up to foster trust and mutual-respect in their community. They are taking action through legal action, social media and communication campaigns, and hosting cultural events and cross-cultural exchanges. 

Over the past months, ICF has been investing our staff time and Border Fund in initiatives and monthly meetings that aim to improve relationships and build trust between migrants and local residents. Organizations like Espacio Migrante offer Spanish and English classes to help migrants better integrate in their new host communities; Al Otro Lado and Colectivo Enclave Caracol are hosts of various workshops and cultural events that are open to the broader public. 

Additionally, with funding from ICF's Border Fund, two national-level Mexican organizations have come together to pilot a new hybrid "community library" that will offer hands-on educational programs for both children and adults. Though these programs may be particularly beneficial to migrant children who are generally not enrolled in school for months or even years, these libraries are open to the entire community. The objective is to attract a diverse population of "TIjuanenses" and use the library space to foster dialogue, and cross-cultural learning which will lead to increased mutual respect and trust. 

Additionally, since May 2019, ICF has hosted monthly meetings for all relevant organizations in Tijuana/Mexicali with the goal of:

  • Co-learning (safe space to learn and share with one another)
  • Capacity Building (training on specific topics like self-care, fundraising, human rights, e)
  • Building a Collective Vision 

With nearly 40 attendees at the first two meetings, we are encouraged that these meetings are making civil society stronger, more unified, and more effective!

ICF's Border Fund remains committed to funding locally-driven initiatives that offer the following services to migrants and asylum seekers in Tijuana/Mexicali:

  • formal education, job-skills training, mental health services, and other programs specifically designed to meet the needs of both migrant and deported populations in Tijuana
  • systems and communication platforms to improve information-sharing/collaboration
  • building permanent infrastructure such as new shelters or community resource centers (as necessary)
  • research and advocacy for public policy reform
  • mental health and self-care for first-responders (those who are working at shelters or serving the population)


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Organization Information

International Community Foundation

Location: National City, CA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ICFDN
Project Leader:
Lety Martinez
National City, CA United States
$45,749 raised of $50,000 goal
270 donations
$4,251 to go
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