News

Menlo Park family helps raise more than $20 million to reunite immigrant families

After seeing a gripping photo of a 2-year-old child crying at the U.S. border, Charlotte and Dave Willner of Menlo Park last Saturday morning set up a fundraising campaign on Facebook.

They had hoped to raise $1,500 for the Refugee Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, a Texas-based immigrant legal services provider.

A little over a week later, they exceeded that goal thousands of times over: As of the morning of June 25, their campaign had raised a staggering $20.2 million, and garnered donations from 526,000 Facebook users, according to the campaign site.

At one point, for about two hours on Wednesday morning, the viral campaign was raising about $10,000 a minute, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The funds raised will be used by RAICES to fund bonds to allow parents to reclaim detained children and offer legal representation for families and unaccompanied children in immigration courts in Texas.

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The photo that triggered the Willners' response shows a 2-year-old Honduran asylum seeker crying as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in McAllen, Texas, according to the Chronicle. It was taken by John Moore of Getty Images.

It has generated some controversy because the child was not separated from her mother for more than a few minutes while they were searched, according to the Washington Post, but has been used to represent the distress that other children who have been separated from their families at the U.S. border are going through, according to witnesses cited in media accounts.

"The photo is heart-wrenching and represents the fear kids face at the border," wrote Malorie Lucich, acting spokesperson for the Willners, in an email to The Almanac. "We're focused on providing RAICES with the resources needed to reunite those kids with their parents as soon as possible."

In recent weeks, more than 2,000 children have been taken away from their parents as part of a Trump administration policy, which seeks to criminally prosecute all immigrants who illegally cross the border, according to the New York Times.

The administration launched a "zero tolerance" immigration policy in April, which laid out plans to prosecute adults who attempt to enter the country illegally and separate them from any children they might bring with them.

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Children from Central America separated from their families by immigration authorities at the border have been documented crying and in great distress, including in an anonymous recording released by ProPublica.

More than 100 children in detention are under 4 years of age and the children are initially held in warehouses, tents or box stores that have been converted into border patrol detention facilities, the publication reports.

On June 20, President Trump signed an order ending the policy of separating families at the border, but continuing the "zero tolerance" policy.

Reactions

Charlotte Willner wrote on the fundraising page: "Make no mistake that the administration is changing course because people spoke out. You spoke out. You showed that you're not okay with this, that none of this okay, and that you won't stand for it. This fundraiser started with the hope of reuniting maybe one family, but it grew. It grew so big that it couldn't be ignored. It grew to a community, to a place that will help all families separated. And it's groups like this and people like you that are responsible for progress in a matter of days, so that mothers and fathers can hug their children again. Your voice and actions matter. Keep them going strong."

RAICES released a June 18 statement, also on Facebook, expressing gratitude for funds generated through the Willners' campaign. "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. We've been occasionally crying around the office all day when we check the fundraising totals. This is such a profound rejection of the cruel policies of this administration. Take heart. There are terrible things happening in the world. And there are many people who are deciding not to look away but to do something."

According to Lucich, RAICES has started a joint project to join forces with other organizations so all of the children separated from their families can be located, reunited with their family members and receive pro bono legal help.

She reports that the organization has added staff who will meet the buses that transport immigrants in order to better track "who's where and advocate for them," she told The Almanac in a written statement.

"We also heard that fathers are only allowed to call their kids in detention centers if there’s $25 in their commissary, which of course they don’t have. So RAICES covered this for fathers in detention," Lucich continued.

Access the Willner's fundraising campaign for RAICES here.

In addition to running their campaign through Facebook, the Willners have closer Facebook connections. National Public Radio reported that the two previously worked at the company, though now Charlotte works at Pinterest and Dave at Airbnb.

Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg both donated undisclosed amounts to the campaign, Politico reported.

The Times cited Roya Winner, a Facebook spokeswoman, who said the Willners’ page is the largest single fundraiser in the company's history.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story indicated that the child depicted in the photograph that inspired the Willners to launch their campaign had been separated from her family. The Washington Post has reported this to be inaccurate.

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Kate Bradshaw
   
Kate Bradshaw reports food news and feature stories all over the Peninsula, from south of San Francisco to north of San José. Since she began working with Embarcadero Media in 2015, she's reported on everything from Menlo Park's City Hall politics to Mountain View's education system. She has won awards from the California News Publishers Association for her coverage of local government, elections and land use reporting. Read more >>

Follow AlmanacNews.com and The Almanac on Twitter @almanacnews, Facebook and on Instagram @almanacnews for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Menlo Park family helps raise more than $20 million to reunite immigrant families

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Jun 21, 2018, 11:55 am

After seeing a gripping photo of a 2-year-old child crying at the U.S. border, Charlotte and Dave Willner of Menlo Park last Saturday morning set up a fundraising campaign on Facebook.

They had hoped to raise $1,500 for the Refugee Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, a Texas-based immigrant legal services provider.

A little over a week later, they exceeded that goal thousands of times over: As of the morning of June 25, their campaign had raised a staggering $20.2 million, and garnered donations from 526,000 Facebook users, according to the campaign site.

At one point, for about two hours on Wednesday morning, the viral campaign was raising about $10,000 a minute, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The funds raised will be used by RAICES to fund bonds to allow parents to reclaim detained children and offer legal representation for families and unaccompanied children in immigration courts in Texas.

The photo that triggered the Willners' response shows a 2-year-old Honduran asylum seeker crying as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in McAllen, Texas, according to the Chronicle. It was taken by John Moore of Getty Images.

It has generated some controversy because the child was not separated from her mother for more than a few minutes while they were searched, according to the Washington Post, but has been used to represent the distress that other children who have been separated from their families at the U.S. border are going through, according to witnesses cited in media accounts.

"The photo is heart-wrenching and represents the fear kids face at the border," wrote Malorie Lucich, acting spokesperson for the Willners, in an email to The Almanac. "We're focused on providing RAICES with the resources needed to reunite those kids with their parents as soon as possible."

In recent weeks, more than 2,000 children have been taken away from their parents as part of a Trump administration policy, which seeks to criminally prosecute all immigrants who illegally cross the border, according to the New York Times.

The administration launched a "zero tolerance" immigration policy in April, which laid out plans to prosecute adults who attempt to enter the country illegally and separate them from any children they might bring with them.

Children from Central America separated from their families by immigration authorities at the border have been documented crying and in great distress, including in an anonymous recording released by ProPublica.

More than 100 children in detention are under 4 years of age and the children are initially held in warehouses, tents or box stores that have been converted into border patrol detention facilities, the publication reports.

On June 20, President Trump signed an order ending the policy of separating families at the border, but continuing the "zero tolerance" policy.

Reactions

Charlotte Willner wrote on the fundraising page: "Make no mistake that the administration is changing course because people spoke out. You spoke out. You showed that you're not okay with this, that none of this okay, and that you won't stand for it. This fundraiser started with the hope of reuniting maybe one family, but it grew. It grew so big that it couldn't be ignored. It grew to a community, to a place that will help all families separated. And it's groups like this and people like you that are responsible for progress in a matter of days, so that mothers and fathers can hug their children again. Your voice and actions matter. Keep them going strong."

RAICES released a June 18 statement, also on Facebook, expressing gratitude for funds generated through the Willners' campaign. "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. We've been occasionally crying around the office all day when we check the fundraising totals. This is such a profound rejection of the cruel policies of this administration. Take heart. There are terrible things happening in the world. And there are many people who are deciding not to look away but to do something."

According to Lucich, RAICES has started a joint project to join forces with other organizations so all of the children separated from their families can be located, reunited with their family members and receive pro bono legal help.

She reports that the organization has added staff who will meet the buses that transport immigrants in order to better track "who's where and advocate for them," she told The Almanac in a written statement.

"We also heard that fathers are only allowed to call their kids in detention centers if there’s $25 in their commissary, which of course they don’t have. So RAICES covered this for fathers in detention," Lucich continued.

Access the Willner's fundraising campaign for RAICES here.

In addition to running their campaign through Facebook, the Willners have closer Facebook connections. National Public Radio reported that the two previously worked at the company, though now Charlotte works at Pinterest and Dave at Airbnb.

Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg both donated undisclosed amounts to the campaign, Politico reported.

The Times cited Roya Winner, a Facebook spokeswoman, who said the Willners’ page is the largest single fundraiser in the company's history.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story indicated that the child depicted in the photograph that inspired the Willners to launch their campaign had been separated from her family. The Washington Post has reported this to be inaccurate.

Comments

menloparkmom
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 21, 2018 at 12:27 pm
menloparkmom, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 21, 2018 at 12:27 pm

So grateful that this MP family created the fundraiser for RAICES!
anyone who is appalled by the administration's callus and cruel treatment of families with innocent children hoping to immigrate to this country should contribute to this worthy cause.
ALL non native born Americans were immigrants once.


Menlocat
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 21, 2018 at 12:33 pm
Menlocat, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 21, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Thank you to this thoughtful family. It is hard not to feel discouraged and yet they DID something! I am very grateful.


Do you see the hypocrisy?
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:03 pm
Do you see the hypocrisy?, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:03 pm

I appreciate the compassion and care extended to families at the border. But do you see the hypocrisy that Menlo Park is harming poor families in Belle Haven and East Palo Alto through it’s irresponsible development approach?

Web Link


Alise
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:20 pm
Alise , Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Now if we would only take care of our own or those atempting to enter legally with such compassion and generosity.


Hmmm
another community
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:35 pm
Hmmm, another community
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:35 pm

Alise - how sad that you don't know this - they are trying to enter legally.


wut about
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 21, 2018 at 2:31 pm
wut about, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 21, 2018 at 2:31 pm

Yes, let's also take care of our own, @Doyouseethehypocrisy and @Alise.

The marvelous Willners have set a model for you: find an appropriate, efficient, useful local organization and go raise $10 million to help locally.

See? Much better idea than putting up some whataboutism posts!

Or just compliment and support them. Try this on for size: "Great job, Willner family and supporters!"



Alise
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 21, 2018 at 7:40 pm
Alise, Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 21, 2018 at 7:40 pm

wut about - with your own 'whataboutism' post, you just assume that giving only measures up if I raise equivalent money. I spent 12 years of my life helping children and families living in the worst poverty - places you would never want to see, let alone live. What dollar value do you give to 12 years of your life?

The giving is a political statement fueled by the media, full stop. I know this sounds heartless, but I'm pointing out hypocrisy, not a lack of compassion for children and families. There are statements and videos of Obama, the Clinton's, Dianne Feinstein, and others sharing the exact same views as Trump about immigration. Families were in detention centers while Obama was in office - where was the outrage then? Where was the compassion then? Why didn't we hear about this during the Obama administration on the mainstream media 24/7? Oh, that's right it's political, therefore hypocritical and not based on compassion at all.


wut about
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 21, 2018 at 7:55 pm
wut about, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 21, 2018 at 7:55 pm

>>Why didn't we hear about this during the Obama administration on the mainstream media 24/7?

See: whataboutism

Children were ripped apart from their family and then shipped across the country, as recently as last night.

Somehow to you, that's a "political statement fueled by the media, full stop." Welp, that's only half a stop from "fake news". Sit back, enjoy your evening Fox.

Best...


Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 21, 2018 at 8:39 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jun 21, 2018 at 8:39 pm

It is great to read a story about a family doing something good for people only to then be spoiled by the bickering and irrelevant posts in the comments


Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 21, 2018 at 8:41 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jun 21, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Great job Charlotte and Dave Willner. Thank you for taking action while most sat idly by or voiced condemnation while doing nothing. This policy was an atrocity and as unAmerican a thing as I can imagine. Glad you stood up and made a difference.


news reader
Woodside: other
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:04 am
news reader, Woodside: other
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:04 am

"After seeing a striking photo of a 2-year-old child crying after being separated from her family..."

It turns out that the girl in the photo was not actually separated from her mother. Not surprisingly, the White House is latching onto the media's mischaracterization of the photo as "fake news". Sadly, this turn of events will end up further polarizing folks on both sides, instead of moving us toward a workable solution.

The most even-handed writeup I've seen recently is this one. It pulls no punches and takes both dems and repubs to task for their failures both now and in the past. The title is annoying clickbait, but the article itself is informative and fairly balanced.

Web Link


wut about
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:32 am
wut about, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:32 am

The Federalist is "even-handed"?

Their wesbite was run by a Red State guy a couple years ago. Heartland related. Anti-LBGT. Stridently anti-choice. Gone from the right to the far right. Published that it was okay for 35 yr old Roy Moore to 'date' teenagers. IOKIYAR. Primary goal is a conversation between conservatives and libertarians. Was against Trump for a moment, now fawns over him (sound familiar?)

But hey - pick apart one photo and ignore the thousands. Thoughts on the stellar job done by the Wilners?


Same Old Nonsense
another community
on Jun 22, 2018 at 1:33 pm
Same Old Nonsense, another community
on Jun 22, 2018 at 1:33 pm

But don't you know, wut about -- the unofficial -45 spokespeople on this board know they have absolutely no way to defend the policies in question. So all they have left is massive, massive amounts of whataboutism.

Different day, same script.


I don't care - do u?
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 22, 2018 at 4:03 pm
I don't care - do u?, Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 22, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Can you believe what she wore to the child internment camps?

I'm so embarrassed to be a republican. I'm done.


VernL
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2018 at 5:55 pm
VernL, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Wow, Charlotte and Dave you have truly touched my heart. Thank you.


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