There are several organizations that are fighting against the Trump administration’s immigration policies and travel bans. Even though President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to keep families together, the families, however, will remain detained, and still need legal representation, housing opportunities, meals, and much more. The 2,300 children already separated from their parents will remain separated and need legal representation to be reunited.
Some of those nonprofits that are helping people as they make their way to the border and being held in immigration detention include the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Momastery, Annunciation House, Al Ortro Lado, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Texas Civil Rights Project. But there’s one organization that has surpassed donations of all of these, and exceeded their own goals much of everyone’s surprise.
In less than two weeks, a viral fundraiser on Facebook has raised more than $20 million for RAICES.
On behalf of the famlies we can serve thanks to your generosity, we say THANK YOU. We will keep fighting. We will keep working. You make it possible. #EndFamilySeparation #FamiliesBelongTogether https://t.co/0wzHYPurfj pic.twitter.com/FbOVqgt7Lv
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) June 18, 2018
RAICES, which means “roots” in Spanish and stands for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services,is the largest immigration legal service group in Texas. The fundraiser is the largest fundraiser in Facebook’s history.
“We’ve had moments of ecstasy and there have been a lot of tears in response to this outpouring of support,” Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES, told The New York Times. “But those moments of joy are curtailed by a realization of great responsibility.”
The organization has been around for the past 30 years. Here’s some of the legal services they provide:
30 years later, our values are still the same. Will San Antonio’s Religious Community Shelter the Targets of New State and Federal Immigration Crackdowns? https://t.co/FphVTmWKcn
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) June 19, 2018
- Relative Petitions
- Adjustment of Status
- Employment Authorization
- Cancellation of Removal
- U Visas (for victims of crimes [and their immediate family members] who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity).
- T Visas (for certain victims of human trafficking and immediate family members to remain and work temporarily in the United States, typically if they agree to assist law enforcement in testifying against the perpetrators).
- Temporary Protected Status
- The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act
- Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
- The Violence Against Women Act
In a Facebook Live event, staff from RAICES said that the organization has closed thousands of immigration cases in their 30 years of service.
The fundraiser began on June 16 when Charlotte and Dave Willner of San Francisco saw the picture of the crying toddler surrounded by Border Patrol agents.
In the Trump-Sessions children’s jail, staff are not allowed to touch, hug, pick up or comfort crying toddlers. This sounds like Russian orphanages. How can you see a crying 2-year-old who wants her mommy and not pick her up and love on her? God help us. https://t.co/Gjx5s5t3RI pic.twitter.com/8voC4UF4DB
— Vicki Ringer (@vickiringer) June 17, 2018
So they started a Facebook fundraiser for RAICES and had an original goal of $1,500.
“When we look at the faces of these children, we can’t help but see our own children’s faces,” Charlotte told The Mercury News.
This Silicon Valley couple is behind the fundraiser that has raised MILLIONS of dollars to "Reunite an immigrant parent with their child." Picture of Dave, Charlotte Willner, and their young daughter provided by family spokesperson, Malorie Lucich. Info: https://t.co/ny59yOSFn2 pic.twitter.com/SjIpXxyU0x
— Amanda del Castillo (@AmandaDTV) June 19, 2018
The fundraiser went viral and began to have matching donations. There’s so many donations happening at one time that their website has reached capacity. Dave Willner said on Facebook that donations are coming in at about $4,000 every minute.
In a statement to CNN, RAICES said: “We do not have the words to thank Charlotte and Dave Willner. We’ve been occasionally crying around the office all day when we check the fundraising totals. There are terrible things happening in the world. And there are many people who are deciding not to look away but to do something.”
RAICES held a Facebook Live event in order to discuss what they’re planning on doing with the millions they have collected.
RAICES Fundraising Updates with Director of Family Detention Manoj Govindaiah, Director of the Children’s Program Mayra Jimenez, and Asst. Director of Outreach Barbara Peña.
Posted by RAICES on Wednesday, June 20, 2018
For starters, their main objective is to make sure all of the children being detained separately from their parents have competent legal representation in court. The organization is made up of several volunteer attorneys that are working to ensure these kids are represented and reunited with their families.
They said a lot of kids they’re helping are located in Dallas and San Antonio area, and have also hired new staff to help manage the cases.
RAICES has two major initiatives at the moment. One is called the Leaf Project and the other is the Families Together Project.
“As hundreds of children are being ripped away from their parents at the Texas-Mexico border, RAICES received word this week that funding to represent unaccompanied children is ending,” RAICES states on their website. “Children with representation are not lost. More than 90 percent of children with representation continue on with their court case. Children with representation are five times more likely to be successful in their case than children who go to court alone. Representation is often the last line of safety for children very vulnerable to exploitation by both a system and a country hostile to their presence.”
Through the Families Together Project, RAICES can reunite families by paying their bond. “The Parents separated from their children at the border (and other immigrants placed in detention) can’t get released from ICE custody to reunite with their families until they pay the full amount of their immigration bond,” RAICES states on their website. “Bonds are set at a MINIMUM of $1500, and are usually in the range of $5-10K, even for asylum seekers without any criminal history.”
RAICES said via Facebook Live that the money raised is going directly to them and they’re working on using it both short term and long term.
We asked for help and you answered! Our #sanantonio community has sent 20 volunteers to help with tasks at the office. We ❤️ our volunteers. #EndFamilySeparation #FamilesBelongTogether pic.twitter.com/PnGIDF9q8s
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) June 18, 2018
They said Facebook has helped facilitate those funds in order for them to use it as efficiently as possible to make sure no child should ever go without a lawyer in court.
For people wanting to help but cannot donate to their fundraiser, RAICES recommends going to immigration court and observing what it’s like for people to go to court without representation. They also suggest people educate themselves on this issue, calling your local senator, go to a protest, attending a vigil because every action matters.