How This Mom Raised $20 Million (And Counting!) for Immigrant Families

How This Mom Raised $20 Million (And Counting!) for Immigrant Families

By Paulina Cachero

Jun 20, 2018

Near the US-Mexico border, Immigration Custom and Enforcement agents separated a distraught 2-year-old little girl from her mother who was seeking asylum from Honduras in accordance with the president's recent "zero tolerance" policy towards undocumented immigrants.

A Getty image of the heartbreaking moment sparked widespread outrage online from liberals and conservatives alike. Even five First Ladies on either side of the aisle raised their voices, including MAKER Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. But Charlotte Wilner took the image as a call to action.

Willner, who works at Pinterest, started a Facebook fundraising campaign with her husband to "reunite an immigrant child with their parent" Saturday morning. Since Willner and her husband began fundraiser a couple weeks ago, they have raised $20.6 million—and counting— for RAICES Texas, a non-profit that provides free and low-cost legal defense for immigrants.

"We are collectively revulsed at what's happening to immigrant families on our southern border," says a post on the fundraiser page. "Until the election, I think there's little chance of a political solution to this grave American moral failing. But there is still something we can do."

Willner, who is also the mother to a two-year-old daughter, explained why she felt motivated to advocate for the immigrant children. "These aren't kids we don't have to care about. They're like our kids," she told MercuryNews in a phone interview. "When we look at the faces of these children, we can't help but see our own children's faces."

The humble campaign started with the initial goal to raise $1,500, the minimum amount to post bond for a single immigrant parent. However, that goal was quickly surpassed as their Facebook friends privately matched donations up to $250,000. In its first four days, the online fundraiser went viral with nearly $8.7 million raised by for RAICES. With money flowing in at $4,000 every minute, they have raised enough to benefit about 13,752 immigrant families.

Dave Willner posted a chart on the Facebook fundraising page tracking the overwhelming amount of donations flowing, some reportedly from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

The wave of financial support for RAICES Texas has been accompanied by an outpouring of hopeful messages from those donating. One user credited the fundraiser for her restored hope in America.

"We're living in a world where they're only showing us fighting each other, this proves, we still are standing together in some way," writes Michelle Smith on Facebook. "We're going to fight and show the administration what they're up against! There's POWER in these numbers!"

RAICES expressed their overwhelming gratitude to Charlotte and Dave Willner in a Facebook post for starting the largest Facebook fundraising campaign to date:

According to the Facebook page, the money generated from the fundraiser RAICES will "directly fund the bond necessary to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while awaiting court proceedings" and "ensure legal representation for every child in immigration courts in Texas."

For more information on how to raise your voice and help reunite immigrant families, go to RAICES.

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