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A California couple has raised millions of dollars to help families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
Charlotte and Dave Willner told the San Jose Mercury News that they launched their Facebook fundraiser, called "Reunite an immigrant parent with their child,” on Saturday morning after seeing a photo of a 2-year-old Honduran girl sobbing as an official patted down her mother at the border.
Dave Willner told the Mercury News that the fundraiser “was the closest thing we could do to hugging that kid.”
The fundraiser was launched with a goal of $1,500, but by Wednesday morning it had garnered more than $9.6 million in donations. For a few hours Sunday, donations were coming in at a rate of $4,000 per minute, David Willner said in a post on Facebook.
The money will go toward the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a Texas nonprofit that provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrants and refugees.
Among those who donated to the Willners’ fundraiser are Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Politico reported. The Willners are previously employees of the tech giant. A company spokesperson declined to say how much they donated.
“These aren’t kids we don’t have to care about. They’re like our kids,” Charlotte Willner told the Mercury News. “When we look at the faces of these children, we can’t help but see our own children’s faces.”
The national debate over immigration has ramped up in recent weeks after reports surfaced that authorities on the U.S.-Mexico border are separating migrant children from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to deal with people who come into the country illegally.
The Trump administration in April ordered prosecutors to charge every person suspected of illegally crossing the border. Children traveling with the adults have been separated and placed in detention centers.
The president has repeatedly called for Democrats to negotiate with Republicans to address the issue after falsely claiming that the party is behind laws that mandate the separation of children from parents at the border. No such law exists.