Moving Forward Together

JFS Migrant Family Shelter

No One Stands Alone in Our Community


The DRAI Project is a one-time state-funded disaster relief assistance for undocumented adult immigrants impacted by COVID-19.

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Welcoming the stranger.

The JFS Migrant Family Shelter provides humanitarian services to asylum-seeking families, including medical screenings, hot meals, travel assistance, legal counsel, and a safe place to sleep. Most migrants are women with two young children, and the average length of time spent at the shelter is 12 to 48 hours. After addressing a family’s urgent needs, shelter staff provides 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 claim asylum.

Total Number of Asylum Seekers Served Since October 2018:

Family Units Individuals
9,249 23,289

As of May 12, 2020

To view news stories related to the JFS Migrant Family Shelter and the SDRRN, please visit our Newsroom.

Please email [email protected] to sign up to volunteer at the shelter on a one-time or ongoing basis.

For more information visit the San Diego Rapid Response Network website at

On October 1, 2019, we marked the one-year anniversary of the JFS Migrant Family Shelter. Take a look back at this incredible community effort to help asylum-seekers on their journey toward a better life.

About Our Current Location

In January 2020, the JFS Migrant Family Shelter moved to a State-owned facility which will be its home for the next two and a half years. Now in its seventh location since opening in late October 2018, the shelter will continue to support asylum-seeking families fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. We welcome new families every day and remain committed to providing critical humanitarian aid and travel assistance.

In a little over one year from the shelter’s start in late October 2018, the shelter has served over 20,000 asylum seekers – all family units – providing beds, food, clothing, health services, legal aid, and airplane and bus tickets to help families connect with loved ones across the country as they wait to continue their legal process to gain asylum. Families housed at the shelter include at least one to two young children, with average stays of 12 to 48 hours.

Thank you to the State of California and Governor Gavin Newsom, California Senate President pro Tem Toni G. Atkins, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the County of San Diego and Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Greg Cox, the San Diego Rapid Response Network, and UC San Diego Health for supporting our critical work to Welcome the Stranger.

Protecting Our Immigrant Community
How the shelter started

The San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN), formed in December 2017, 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 2019, ICE began coordinating with the SDRRN to drop-off migrant families at our shelter each afternoon once they had been legally processed.

Through these collaborative efforts leading to the establishing of the JFS Migrant Family Shelter thousands of migrant families have been kept off San Diego’s streets, ensuring they did not further strain the capacities of service providers working to shelter and assist the region’s ever-growing homeless population.

Additional funding is needed to maintain daily operation of the shelter and to support cross-country travel expenses of migrant families. To donate, visit

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.


Watch Video

Free Legal Immigration Assistance through JFS

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!

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.

Read The Union Tribune Article >>

Read the KPBS Article >>

Read Our Statement >>

Help Asylum-seekers Move Forward
Volunteer or Donate 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 or the donate button below.

Donate to Rapid Response

Checks can be mailed to:
Jewish Family Service of San Diego
Turk Family Center
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.

Media Inquiries

For media-related inquiries, please contact J. Walcher Communications at (619) 295-7140 or send an email to [email protected].