Muslim community in Mexico opens arms to migrants from Ghana en route to US

A Latino-Muslim nonprofit in Tijuana, Mexico, has raised funds to build a shelter for asylum seekers and refugees from Ghana, Kenya, Russia and Afghanistan, among others.

It opened the doors of the shelter on Saturday after three years of raising funds.

The two-story shelter is in Tijuana’s Zona Norte close to the U.S.-Mexico border. The 8,000-square-foot facility has the capacity to serve up to 150 people arriving at the border seeking asylum. Some might stay in Mexico, but most are looking to enter the United States. It currently houses 30 people.

“It took a lot of faith, money, effort and patience,” Sonia García, president of the Latina Muslim Foundation, a nonprofit based in San Diego and Tijuana, said before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

García, who grew up Catholic and converted to Islam, has worked in migrant shelters in Tijuana before. This is how she became aware of the growing number of Muslim asylum seekers.

“They were in hotels or shelters without a proper place for worship or halal food,” she said. That’s how the idea of building a shelter came about.

The investment was almost half a million dollars, raised from community donations, García said. The shelter is home to migrants from Kenya, Ghana, Russia and Afghanistan, among others.

“We are safe here,” said Ilyas Salarzai, 22, from Afghanistan. “The Latina Muslim Foundation has been very good.” Salarzai is currently waiting for certain documents as part of his immigration process.

The shelter and mosque was built at a site formerly used for different events. The intention is to provide a comfortable space for migrants arriving in a country with a different culture and language, advocates said.

“They are displaced by war or violence, so we seek to provide them with a little identity so that they feel less stressed in their refugee situation,” said Laura Díaz, architect and project manager.

The shelter will offer housing, food, and clothing, as well as other services, such as legal, medical, psychological, and dental assistance. There will also be workshops and courses.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by authorities from Mexico and the United States, as well as by immigration advocates and dozens of people who gathered at the site.

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