June 18, 2018; Mercury News
Children are being pulled from their parents’ arms at the US-Mexico border, with no guarantee of reunification and no concern for the basic humanity of refugees fleeing violence. NPQ’s Cyndi Suarez wrote a feature today on the human cost of this terrible policy. But across the country, many Americans have drawn a line in the sand, and are pitching in to fight for children and their families.
Perhaps the fastest-growing fundraiser was begun by Charlotte and Dave Willner, a couple from Silicon Valley who were some of Facebook’s earliest employees. They originally planned to raise $1,500 for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). The minimum cost of a bond to get someone out of detention is $1,500, but they can cost up to $10,000.
The Willners leveraged their friends in the tech industry to help make their fundraiser easy to understand and support and got matching grants from larger donors. Julia Prodis Sulek of the Mercury News wrote, “When a potential donor was confused about how to donate, the Willners contacted a blogger friend who posted an explanation. When donors asked how they knew the Texas nonprofit was legitimate, they had a friend write up a post and add a link vouching for it.” By 9:45 am on Wednesday, they had raised $9,135,877 toward a goal of $11 million. NPQ has written about the phenomenon of rage donating before, and this week, many Americans have been seriously enraged.
Jenny Hixon, director of education and outreach for Texas-based RAICES, told Sulek, “I have no better way to describe it than just absolutely stunned and incredibly grateful because the funds that have been raised will enable us to do so much work.” Hixon told Jessica Guynn of USA Today, “Our fundraising infrastructure is spartan. We have one development person on staff, which is me…and I’m also responsible for overseeing our shelter, volunteer operations, media, community outreach, and refugee resettlement. We’re very much a boots-on-the-ground kind of organization.”
Dave Willner said that he and his wife were inspired by John Moore’s photo of a small girl crying next to her mother and border patrol agents and that starting the fundraiser was “the closest thing we could do to hugging that kid.”
Hollie Larkey Ancharoff, a grateful donor, wrote, “Thank you for giving us something concrete to do!” In that, Ancharoff echoes the feelings of many Americans, who feel helpless in the face of such bare cruelty.
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Other organizations are responding to citizens’ wish to help. Multiple news organizations, including the Texas Tribune, Slate, ELLE, Money Magazine, the San Antonio Current, Nerdist, and InStyle, have posted articles about how to help the children and their families. They include links to legal aid organizations like RAICES, which can represent families and children in deportation proceedings; humanitarian aid groups, which send food, diapers, blankets, and other supplies to children being held in tents and former Walmarts; phone numbers for senators and comment lines where citizens can tell their public officials to take action; and how to find protests in your area.
There are protests in abundance at the border and in cities around the country. The Families Belong Together coalition, a group of immigrant rights activists, held a Father’s Day protest at the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center in McAllen, Texas. Activist Jess Morales Rocketto led the crowd in shouting to the children inside, “Niños, no estan solos” and “you are not alone.”
US Representative and US Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) also led a protest on Father’s Day outside a tent city that houses children at the border. He was joined by Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts and hundreds of others. O’Rourke told the Texas Tribune, “We decided there wouldn’t be a more powerful way to spend Father’s Day than with children who have just been taken from their fathers, children who have been taken from their mothers, children who won’t be able to be with their family.” Other protests were planned by people in places as far as Minneapolis, Boston, New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Detroit. (If you’re looking for a protest in your area, you can go to this website and enter your ZIP code to find one.)
Activist groups are mobilizing their networks nationwide. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights called June 14th a “National Day of Action, on family separations, initiated by We Belong Together and other partners.” NPR reported that the ACLU requested class-action status on Friday for their suit on behalf of an immigrant mother, known as Ms. L, who was separated from her daughter; they are collecting signatures on a petition to stop the separations.
Not to be outdone, nine state governors have refused to send their National Guard troops to the border as long as the separation policy is in place. Ralph Northam (VA), Andrew Cuomo (NY), Larry Hogan (MD), John Carney (DE), Roy Cooper (NC), Gina M. Raimondo (RI), Charlie Baker (MA), Dannel P. Malloy (CT), and Bruce Rauner (IL) all said something similar to Governor Raimondo’s statement, “The Trump administration’s family separation policy is immoral, unjust and un-American. I will not deploy units from the Rhode Island National Guard to the southern border to support the administration’s policy that is ripping families apart.”
Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order that prevents state resources from helping immigration authorities to separate families, and Governors Kate Brown (OR) and Phil Scott (VT) have also said they would not send troops when asked. Matthew Haag of the New York Times pointed out that these refusals “were largely symbolic, as their states were not among those that had been planning to send large numbers of troops in the first place,” but they nevertheless send a much-needed message of defiance.—Erin Rubin