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A Fund To Raise $1,500 For Immigrant Families At The Border Has Reached Over $12 Million

A Fund To Raise $1,500 For Immigrant Families At The Border Has Reached Over $12 Million

Much of the nation is watching in horror as the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy continues to separate immigrant families at the United States border who have come here hoping for asylum, sending their children into what are essentially cages inside detention centers. Protests have erupted across the country — such as the one in Philadelphia yesterday that marked Mike Pence’s arrival — and people are starting to mobilize in different ways to help these families.

Like many people, a couple named Charlotte and Dave Willner of the Bay Area in San Fransisco were haunted by the viral photo of a two-year-old old Honduran girl looking up at her mother, crying in anguish as border patrol prepared to rip them apart. As parents of a two-year-old themselves, on Saturday the couple took matters into their own hands and started a Facebook fundraising page that has become the biggest in the social media network’s history.

In the page’s description, the Willners outlined the grim reality these families are facing:

These children don’t know where their parents are. Their parents aren’t allowed to communicate with them while in custody. The government hasn’t set up a system to reunite separated parents and children if one or both are ultimately released. In many cases, parents have been deported without their children — sometimes, young children are deported without their parents.

The couple initially started small — hoping to raise $1,500 for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit that provides low-cost legal services to refugee and immigrant families in Texas. However in a matter of days the Willners had blown past that goal, having raised over $12 million at the time of this writing from hundreds of thousands of people, with funds matched on over $360,000 from private donors.

“We’ve had moments of ecstasy and there have been a lot of tears in response to this outpouring of support,” Jonathan Ryan, executive director of Raices, said in a phone interview. “But those moments of joy are curtailed by a realization of great responsibility.”

Although the organization currently only has about 50 lawyers on staff, the funds will allow them to retain many more that will be needed in the upcoming weeks, months, and even years. And they have a hard road ahead of them, as legal costs add up. Bond for a single detained immigrant can be as much as $10,000, on top of travel costs to locate the parents, and asylum paperwork.