Fundraiser to reunite separated immigrant families goes massively viral.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Three Facebook employees were heartbroken by the news of immigrant children being separated from their parents after being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. So they decided to do something.

On June 16, they launched a fundraising campaign called "Reunite an immigrant parent with their child." It promised to deliver funds to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit that provides legal services to families who have been detained while attempting to cross the border.

Specifically, RAICES has two stated goals tied to this campaign:


  • Directly funding bonds to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while awaiting court proceedings.
  • Ensuring legal representation for every child in a Texas immigration court.

In just four days, it has reached out an astounding $10 million in contributions from more than 260,000 individual donors.

In a statement posted to their Facebook page, RAICES said:

"We do not have the words to thank Charlotte and Dave Willner. Thanks is inadequate for the work these funds will make possible. We know it will change lives. We know it will save lives by keeping people from being deported to unsafe countries."

When the campaign started, it had a modest goal of a few thousand dollars. But the goal kept getting shattered as news of the campaign went viral. Three days later, the campaign hit a fundraising goal of $5 million coming from more than 127,000 individual donors.

Since then, the contributions have been snowballing at an epic level with no sign of slowing down.

For skeptics out there, the organizers have stated that Facebook is not taking fees from the campaign and the organizers have promised to deliver the raised funds to RAICES within 14 days of the campaign's completion.

"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," campaign co-founder Charlotte Wilner wrote on the fundraising Facebook page.

While $10 million is a hugely impressive number that will have real results, the sea of individual donors might be a more powerful message for elected officials.

It sends a strong message to public leaders that Americans demand humane policies — and they won't stand for it.

While most Americans are opposed to the White House policy of family separation, there is still strong support from Republican voters and officials. However, there are already cracks in what only days ago seemed like a united front, with Republicans breaking rank with Trump's handling of the issue.

Vocal statements like this campaign are essential to sending a clear message that even voters who favor strong enforcement of immigration laws will not tolerate the mistreatment of children and families.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Watching this story unfold across the news can make a lot of people feel helpless. But there are ways to help.

The White House has a significant amount of leeway in enforcing immigration policy and Trump appears to be digging his heels in. Short of waiting until this November's midterm elections, people are looking to do something now. This campaign is a good start, but here's what else you can do:

Update 6/20/2018: The great increase in amount of contributions the first few days of the campaign from $5 million to $10 million was added to this post as well as that it has become Facebook's most successful fundraising campaign ever.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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