When Dave and Charlotte Willner spotted a now-iconic photo of a sobbing young girl separated from her parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, they felt they had to do something, the California couple told The Mercury News.
“It was the closest thing we could do to hugging that kid,” Dave Willner told the publication. The Silicon Valley couple, which has a 2-year-old daughter, had already been troubled by the U.S. policy of separating children from parents suspected of trying to enter the country illegally.
“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 Willners, who were among Facebook’s earliest employees before moving on to other positions, set up a fundraiser Saturday on the social media platform in hopes of collecting $1,500 — enough to reunite one immigrant parent with their child, reported the publication.
By Tuesday morning, the drive, found here on Facebook, had raised nearly $10 million from 228,000 people, including donations by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operations officer Sheryl Sandberg, with the totals rising in mere minutes. Others in Silicon Valley have pledged matching donations.
At one point Sunday, the campaign brought in $4,000 a minute, Dave Willner wrote on Facebook.
The money will go to Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, a Texas-based organization providing free and low-cost legal services to immigrants and refugees, according to its Facebook page.
The $1,500 originally sought by the Willners represents the minimum required to cover bond fees for one person detained on immigration charges, the organization said.
“We've been occasionally crying around the office all day when we check the fundraising totals,” RAICES wrote in a Facebook post thanking the Willners. “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. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
An unapologetic President Donald Trump defended his administration’s border-protection policies Monday in the face of rising national outrage over the forced separation of migrant children from their parents. Calling for tough action against illegal immigration, Trump declared the U.S. “will not be a migrant camp” on his watch.
Images of children held in fenced cages fueled a growing chorus of condemnation from both political parties, four former first ladies and national evangelical leaders. The children are being held separately from parents who are being prosecuted under the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings.
Trump on Monday blamed Democrats — the minority party in Washington — for obstructing legislation to fix the situation. It was Trump’s administration that broke with longstanding practice of processing migrant families in civil, rather than criminal, proceedings that allow families to be held together.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.