Silicon Valley couple raises more than $8M in 5 days to help reunite separated immigrant families
OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - As the issue over the separation of immigrant families continues to boil over across the country, a Silicon Valley couple has taken steps to raise millions to help reunite the children and parents torn from each other at the border.
At last check, Charlotte and Dave Willner's efforts have raked in more than $8 million in five days.
The campaign is being called, "the largest single fundraiser ever on Facebook."
The Willners, who were formerly at Facebook and now work at Pinterest and Airbnb, say they were inspired to launch the campaign after seeing the now viral image, which captured a crying 2-year-old migrant girl looking up helplessly, while her mother is being patted down by a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
The day before launching the fundraiser, Charlotte Willner took to Facebook to post the chilling photo, which has since become a worldwide symbol of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
"This child is my daughter's age. This is the exact face she makes when she's terrified," she wrote. "I don't care why you voted for Trump -- if you're still supporting him, you're supporting this."
She went on to write, "Change it or own it. But don't pretend it's not happening, and that you didn't authorize it. It's never too late to do the right thing."
With that, the next day she and her husband set out to help change the circumstances of the nearly 2,000 immigrant children who have been separated from their parents.
The campaign is called "Reunite an immigrant parent with their child." It initially began with a goal of raising $1,500 but it did not take long for the money raising drive to take off and go viral.
Some heavy weight Silicon Valley figures are among those who have donated, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. And the organizers said the fundraiser has been matched up to $250,000 by multiple private donors.
On Tuesday, Dave Willner provided an update and said, "Collectively you have given $4,000,000 in a little more than 24 hours. That's truly stunning and a massive testament to the desire of people to help with this horrifying situation."
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other Trump administration officials have continually defended the controversial policy and said the separations of the migrant families are necessary to enforce immigration laws, with the administration calling on Congress to change the laws.
"We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job," Nielsen said on Monday. "This administration has a simple message-- If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you."
All the money raised by the "Reunite an immigrant parent with their child" fundraiser will benefit the nonprofit, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), based in Texas.
The group is described as "the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas," serving some of the most vulnerable populations.
The organizers said RAICES has two critical goals at this time: to directly pay for the required bond needed to get parents out of detention and ultimately reunited with their children. The campaign noted that bonds are set at a minimum of $1,500 and are typically much higher, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 even for asylum seekers that have no criminal history.
RAICES said its other goal is to make sure every child in Texas' immigration courts have legal representation.
On the fundraiser's Facebook page, the organizers said how distressing this latest development on the immigration fight is. "In times when we often think that the news can't possibly get worse, it does."
The Willners called on people to think about the families whose lives have been broken.
"Until the election, I think there's little chance of a political solution to this grave American moral failing," the organizers wrote. "But there is still something we can do."