In recent years, Mexico has seen a growing number of Muslim migrants at its northern border. Some are seeking asylum in the U.S. and are waiting in neighboring cities under President Donald Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy. Others are deportees who are trying to find new refuge further south. For most of them, life in this foreign land can be challenging. That’s why the Latina Muslim Foundation is raising money to build a shelter for migrants of the Muslim faith in Tijuana.
The nonprofit religious organization based south of California has been working with local migrant shelters to find translators for asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East as well as informing them about Playas de Tijuana, the only mosque in the city.
Through their service work, they have identified some problems Muslim migrants have encountered in Mexico.
“They don’t know the food, the culture, the language,” Sonia Garcia, founder of the Latina Muslim Foundation, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “It is very difficult for them.”
Additionally, Garcia said it’s hard for them to find spaces to pray five times a day and that for women there remains a lot of confusion around their use of the hijab.
Hoping to meet some of the group’s needs, the foundation has plans on creating a shelter that will also act as a hub, connecting migrants, asylum seekers and deportees with social services, medical care and a space to pray. They hope to buy a warehouse 10 minutes from the border and turn it into a two-story shelter that will include offices for social workers and lawyers as well as a prayer room stocked with copies of the Quran, a medical space and a kitchen.
“The only thing we need is the money,” Garcia said.
To complete the project, the group is trying to raise $250,000. They currently have an online fundraiser aimed at reaching $35,000. At the time of writing, it has raised $28,140.
With existing shelters along the border struggling to house all asylum seekers, Garcia said the need for this sanctuary is greater than ever before — and her team is equipped to help.
“There exists a big gap of misunderstanding, of ignorance,” Gutierrez said. “Being Latino, being Muslim, we can connect.”