(NEW YORK) — In a little over four days, a fundraising campaign on Facebook has topped $13 million to help reunite undocumented families split up by the U.S. government at the Mexico border.
The fundraiser page, “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child,” was launched on Saturday by three former Facebook employees. As of Wednesday morning, more than 223,000 people had donated to the fund, which was fetching more than $2.2 million in donations a day. Several people donated $260,000 each.
“We are collectively revulsed at what’s happening to immigrant families on our southern border,” the fund’s organizers wrote the campaign’s Facebook page.
The page was launched by Silicon Valley power trio Malorie Lucich, and Dave and Charlotte Willner, who were among the original employees at Facebook and now work at Pinterest, the popular image-collecting site. The Willners also work at Airbnb.
The goal of the fund is to raise $5 million.
The money will go to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, and provide legal aid for undocumented immigrant parents arrested on suspicion of crossing the border illegally.
Bond for the parents arrested at the border has been set at a minimum of $1,500. Unlike in the criminal justice system, bail bond companies either do not help people in immigration proceedings or impose strict requirements, according to RAICES.
President Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the administration’s controversial immigration policies on Monday.
As part of the “zero-tolerance” policy, federal prosecutors have been ordered to file criminal charges against any adult caught crossing the border illegally, including those traveling with minors. The children are being placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, and adults are apprehended by law enforcement.
“Children are not being used as a pawn,” Nielsen said at a press briefing Monday. “We are trying to protect the children.”
She and Trump said the administration is enforcing laws already on the books.
“The voices most loudly criticizing the enforcement of our current laws are those whose policies created this crisis and whose policies perpetuate it,” Nielsen said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions scoffed at claims that the policy harkens back to Nazi Germany after former CIA and National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, who served mostly under George W. Bush, tweeted a picture of a Nazi concentration camp and wrote, “Other governments have separated mothers and children.”
“Well, it’s a real exaggeration,” Sessions said in an interview Monday on Fox News. “Of course, in Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country.”
The policy of separating parents from children at the border had been widely denounced by both Democrats and Republicans. Former first lady Laura Bush penned an op-ed in The Washington Post calling the policy “cruel” and “immoral,” and comparing it to Japanese internment camps during World War II.
Lucich and the Willners called the policy “a grave American moral failing.”
“These children don’t know where their parents are,” they wrote on the Facebook fundraising page. “Their parents aren’t allowed to communicate with them while in custody. The government hasn’t set up a system to reunite separated parents and children if one or both are ultimately released. In many cases, parents have been deported without their children — sometimes, young children are deported without their parents.”
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