The JFS Migrant Family Shelter provides a wide variety of services to asylum-seeking families, including legal counsel, medical screenings, hot meals, travel assistance, and new clothes. We welcome new migrants every day, most of whom are women with young children. The average length of time spent at the shelter is 12 to 48 hours. After addressing a family’s urgent needs, staff provide transportation assistance to ensure asylum-seekers can safely reunite with loved ones in cities across the U.S. More than 95% of families at the shelter leave San Diego for other destinations as they continue through the legal process.
To view news stories related to the JFS Migrant Family Shelter and the SDRRN, please visit our Newsroom.
Know Your Rights Presentations & Friend of the Court Assistance
The federal government’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, commonly referred to as “Remain in Mexico”) forces asylum seekers to return to and remain in Mexico to await their U.S. court dates, depriving them of resources and assistance in the U.S., including legal aid. Of more than 38,000 asylum seekers enrolled in MPP, only about 1% have legal representation. Jewish Family Service of San Diego, which leads the legal services for and is a core partner of the San Diego Rapid Response Network, requested the ability to provide “Know Your Rights” presentations and “Friend of the Court” assistance, in which an attorney informally guides an individual during their hearing, at San Diego Immigration Court. In June 2019, the Department of Justice denied the request.
Because of this denial, and now that all local immigration court cases have been postponed from the docket except for MPP, JFS and San Diego immigration attorneys joined together to advocate for these critical services. The San Diego Union-Tribune explains what happened on Day 1.
Asylum-seekers have no guaranteed right to an attorney and without representation, the odds of securing asylum are nearly impossible. With your help, we can provide additional legal support to represent asylum-seekers forced to remain in Mexico during their immigration hearings. Together, we can connect vulnerable families to critical legal services so they can continue their asylum journey in safety and with dignity.
Formed in December 2017, the San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) is a coalition of more than 40 human rights and service organizations, attorneys, and community leaders dedicated to aiding immigrants and their families in the San Diego border region. SDRRN was activated to respond to increased immigration enforcement and humanitarian issues at the border, including widespread family separation and unjust deportation of asylum-seekers. Learn more by visiting SDRRN.
In October 2018, Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) abruptly ended a program known as “Safe Release,” which helped asylum-seekers connect with friends and family in the U.S. as they waited for their court date. Abandoned on the streets of downtown San Diego, migrant families were now left vulnerable to crime and risked straining County resources by adding to our expanding homeless population. SDRRN filled this critical gap in government assistance by opening temporary shelters in local churches. By mid-November, ICE began coordinating with the SDRRN to drop-off migrant families at our shelter each afternoon once they had been legally processed.
In early March 2019, the SDRRN moved the shelter to its sixth location since the operation began just four months earlier. The shelter building is owned by the County of San Diego and is being leased to JFS for $1 from March through December 2019. The SDRRN has been actively engaging with City, County, and State officials to request resources to support a permanent shelter facility that can serve migrant families arriving in San Diego after 2019.
The JFS Migrant Family Shelter is cost-free to San Diego taxpayers. Governor Newsom allocated nearly $3 million in state funding to help finance shelter operations. JFS runs the shelter and greatly relies on private donations to support its daily operation, maintenance, and upkeep.
At our 2019 Heart & Soul Gala, we honored the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties as one of our core partners in the SDRRN. Take a look at our tribute video to learn more about SDRRN, see how the JFS Migrant Family Shelter was started, and hear first-hand stories from asylum-seekers.
In addition to the JFS Migrant Family Shelter, we also operate a non-emergency legal helpline for immigrants who contact SDRRN. All callers receive a free eligibility screening to determine whether we can take the case or if the caller should be referred to other no-cost legal service providers.
JFS recruits, trains, and mentors volunteer attorneys to provide pro bono representation for immigration cases. We also train and coordinate volunteer attorneys to respond in real-time to ongoing emergencies whenever a call to our 24-hour hotline requires immediate legal response.
Immigration Emergency Hotline: If you or someone you know is experiencing an immigration emergency (raid, arrest, checkpoint, and/or harassment) call the 24-hour hotline at (619) 536-0823.
Immigration Pro-Bono Legal Assistance: For non-emergency immigration legal assistance inquiries, please call (858) 637-3365. This line is staffed by the legal team at JFS – give us a call today!
Families arriving in our community are in desperate need of your help. They have traveled thousands of miles to flee violence, persecution, and other hardships in their home country in search of a safer, better life. The most impactful way to address this issue is with responsive and flexible funding. Your financial support will change lives.
Make a Donation
Online donations can be made through rapidresponsesd.org or the donate button below.
Checks can be mailed to:
Jewish Family Service of San Diego
Joan & Irwin Jacobs Campus
8804 Balboa Avenue – San Diego, CA 92123
Volunteer at The Shelter
Please email [email protected] to sign up to volunteer at the shelter on a one-time or ongoing basis.
Donate Needed Items
All shelter guests – babies, infants, children, and adults – discard their old clothes for health and hygiene reasons and are provided with new underwear, clean clothes, and shoes. Before they leave to reconnect with loved ones, asylum-seeking families are provided with additional clothes for what is often a multi-day bus ride.
You can donate these needed items through our Amazon wishlist, which will help families begin their journey in the United States.
Since 1918, JFS has provided resettlement assistance to refugees and asylum seekers from around the world. Getting them here is just the beginning – and volunteers are critical to the process.
The Union-Tribune investigates the challenges and importance of legal representation for asylum seekers who fall under Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), otherwise known as Remain in Mexico.
JFS is a core partner in the San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) to help vulnerable immigrants and their families in the San Diego border region. Learn more about SDRRN and how to get involved.