Their Facebook campaign for border babies sought $1,500 — raised $10 million

A 2-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. “It was the closest thing we could do to hugging that kid,” Californian Dave Willner said of his and his wife’s Facebook campaign that raised more than $10 million to help such children separated from their parents in recent weeks.

John Moore / Getty

A San Francisco couple distraught over the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant parents from their children hoped a Facebook campaign would help raise $1,500, or enough to cover the bond of one detained migrant parent. Four days later, their effort has netted nearly $10.5 million, with 260,000 people chipping in an average of $50.

After seeing photos of migrant children crying at the border, with one in particular conjuring up thoughts of their own toddler, Charlotte and Dave Willner decided to try to help reunite at least one family. 

As Dave Willner told the Mercury News: “It was the closest thing we could do to hugging that kid.”

Learning that detained migrants can often post bond and get out of jail, they set a fundraising goal of $1,500 to be donated to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES. 

The nonprofit, which provides free or low-cost legal help to immigrants in refugees in Texas, three weeks ago said the administration was “ending funding for representing thousands of released unaccompanied children.”

But that was before the viral fundraiser. In a post on social media, RAICES said it would now be able to serve many people, adding “our dream is universal coverage.”

“We’ve been occasionally crying around the office all day when we check the fundraising totals,” RAICES wrote on Facebook. “This is such a profound rejection of the cruel policies of this administration.”

The fundraiser, which began Saturday morning, is the largest yet using Facebook, the social media company said. Contributors include Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, both of whom wrote posts expressing their outrage at the U.S. policy.

“We need to stop this policy right now,” wrote Zuckerberg, who also advocated for donations to be made to another nonprofit, the Texas Civil Rights Project. Echoing the sentiment, Sandberg described listening to the cries of children separated from their parents unbearable.” 

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