In less than four days, a California couple has raised more than $5 million – and counting – through Facebook to help reunite undocumented families that have been separated at the border.
Charlotte and Dave Willner were inspired to start the campaign when they saw the viral image showing a frightened, crying 2-year-old girl looking up to the adults around her after crossing the border. The girl, who was with her mother and others, had rafted across the Rio Grande and the group was stopped in Texas by US Border Patrol agents.
“These aren’t kids we don’t have to care about. They’re like our kids,” Charlotte Willner told the San Jose Mercury News. “When we look at the faces of these children, we can’t help but see our own children’s faces.”
The Willners originally started their fund-raising campaign named “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child” on Saturday morning with the goal of $1,500. But soon their efforts went viral.
The couple chose to raise money for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit located in Texas that offers free and low-cost legal services to immigrants and refugees. The original goal of $1,500 was the minimum amount to cover bond fees for one person, according to RAICES.
By Tuesday afternoon, the campaign surpassed $5 million, with more than 122,000 people donating. Its new goal is $6 million.
“The run rate over the last 3 hours was nearly $4k every minute,” posted Dave Willner on Facebook.
RAICES confirmed to CNN that the organization has been in contact with the couple since Saturday.
“We do not have the words to thank Charlotte and Dave Willner,” RAICES posted on Facebook. “We’ve been occasionally crying around the office all day when we check the fundraising totals. There are terrible things happening in the world. And there are many people who are deciding not to look away but to do something.”