An outpouring of donations for children separated from their parents at the border has followed devastating photos of traumatic scenes that shocked the nation into action.
Specifically, a Facebook fundraiser started by two former employees of the social platform, Charlotte and Dave Willner, has amassed over $15 million to benefit the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a Texas nonprofit that provides free or low-cost lawyers to immigrants and refugees in the state. Currently, nearly 1,500 detained children are being held in a converted Walmart in Texas.
The fundraiser's initial goal was just $1,500, which is enough for a migrant parent with a relatively low bond to pay to get out of jail. They can then theoretically try to find their children while waiting for their court date. "It was the closest thing we could do to hugging that kid," Dave Willner told the Mercury News.
As of Thursday morning, more than 400,000 people from both America and abroad had donated to the fundraiser, including Mark Zuckerberg. When the amount was still less than just $4 million, Facebook spokesman Roya Winner told the Washington Post, "We can confirm this is one of the largest fundraisers we've ever seen on Facebook."
"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. Take heart."
The nonprofit has already received twice as much money as it raised in all of 2016, the Post reports. The group plans to use the money to bond parents out of immigration jails, and also to provide lawyers to the parents as they fight to reunite with their children and stay in the United States.
Jenny Hixon, RAICES's development director, said they are currently rushing to contact other nonprofits so they can use the money in the most effective ways possible when the fundraiser ends is mid-July.
"We're ramping up our representation of the parents," Hixon told the Post. "We're hiring more legal point-people who try to get the families back in communication with each other. We're launching a nationwide network of people to provide support to people after they are released from detention, because as you can see, this is traumatizing."
RAICES is also setting up a network of therapists and psychologists to prepare to address the inevitable PTSD, toxic stress and other negative effects they and medical professionals expect the children to suffer from.