SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The University of California San Diego is helping build what will become the largest migrant shelter ever constructed in Northern Baja California.

It’s a collaboration between the school and the Embajadores de Jesús shelter.

“No contractors, no machinery, all being done by hand,” said Teddy Cruz with UCSD’s Center on Global Justice.

Cruz says the migrants, led by Embajadores de Jesús’ Pastor Gustavo Banda, have been doing the bulk of the work and the group expects to have the first phase of a housing unit done by the end of the year.

“This is a sanctuary neighborhood, not just a shelter,” Cruz said.

The shelter is being built by migrants themselves. (Jorge Nieto/Special for Border Report)

Cruz said that aside from housing and kitchen areas, the facility will have educational programs, job training, recreational facilities and a fabrication workshop on the property that will provide jobs to migrants.

Teddy Cruz from UCSD’s Center for Global Justice is overseeing the project. (Jorge Nieto/Special for Border Report)

“This is not a temporary shelter. They can stay long-term if they want,” said Cruz. “Migrant housing cannot survive on its own only as a shelter, the housing needs will be supported by many other programs.”

The work is being paid for by donations and grants generated by UCSD. Other contributions are by various benefactors in the US, such as Light Church and Hands of Hope.

“Given our location being so close to the border wall we have an ethical obligation to address this mounting crisis,” said Fonna Forman, founding director of the school’s Center on Global Justice. “Our students are increasingly committed to using whatever they’re studying to improve the world.”

An architectural rendering of the shelter that is supposed to include housing units, recreational facilities, green areas and a factory for jobs. (Courtesy: Teddy Cruz)

Forman said they are committed to partnering with migrant communities to promote “climate justice.””

“Ninety-four percent of arriving migrants at our southern border are agricultural workers and identify agricultural instability as a major factor in their decision to walk north … as agriculture becomes more and more unstable, violence increases and people move.”

Forman expects more migrants will migrate in the future.

“Engaging in this conflict helps enrich and expand our research capacity but as a public university we have to give back but it becomes a cyclical process of mutual benefit.”

When fully done, this “sanctuary neighborhood” will also include green areas and an ability to prevent pollution such as trash from flowing down neighboring canyons and into the U.S.

“There’s a lot of erosion flow, trash waste that moves downstream in canyons and passes under the border wall that ends up in the Tijuana Estuary,” said Cruz. “We are working collectively and collaboratively protecting the estuary from pollution and trash that impacts this habitat.”