A Facebook fundraising campaign aiming to reunite parents and children who have been sent to separate detention centers went viral and broke social media records after it raised over $6 million in just four days.
Charlotte and Dave Willner were moved when they saw a photo of a 2-year-old Honduran girl crying as her mother was searched by a U.S. Border Patrol agent, The New York Times reported. That was all they needed to begin a grassroots campaign on Saturday to raise $1,500 to do what they could to try to reunite these families on Saturday.
They called it, “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child,” and the money is intended to go toward the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit organization in Texas that gives immigrant and refugee families legal representation in the state.
The couple’s expectations were exceeded when more than 130,000 people donated over $5 million in three days, the Times reports. At the time of publication, the page has now raised over $6 million.
Johnathan Ryan, the executive director of the nonprofit, expressed his amazement to the newspaper calling it a “great responsibility.”
“We’ve had moments of ecstasy and there have been a lot of tears in response to this outpouring of support,” Ryan said. “But those moments of joy are curtailed by a realization of great responsibility.”
According to the fundraiser’s Facebook page, the money is intended to pay the bond of parents in detention centers so they can be reunited with their children while they await their court dates.
The funds will also go toward ensuring all children detained in Texas have legal representation. The page says bond minimums are set at $1,500 and can vary anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000.
According to the Times, RAICES currently has about 50 lawyers on staff. A Facebook spokeswoman told the newspaper the Willners’ page has become the largest single fundraiser in the social media site’s history.
While the $6 million has not yet reached RAICES, Ryan told the Times the nonprofit had already sent lawyers to aid detained immigrants and their children.
“These people need lawyers. Beyond the punditry and politics, each person suffering from this policy has a huge legal case to begin to prepare for,” he said.
On Monday, ProPublica released an audio recording of a man reported to be U.S. Border Patrol agent joking about immigrant children’s crying while at a detention facility after they had been separated from their parents.
“Well, we have an orchestra here, right? What we’re missing is a conductor,” he said as a boy is heard crying loudly for his father.
ProPublica reported the person who made the recording asked not to be identified out of fear of retaliation. PEOPLE was not able to independently verify the recording.
Later in the recording, a little girl from El Salvador is heard pleading with the agents and consular representatives present to call her aunt, explaining she had memorized the phone number.
“Can I go with my aunt at least? I want my aunt to come to take me to her house. I have her number,” she is heard saying in Spanish.
She continued insisting the representatives call her aunt as two of them discussed feeding the children while a little boy in the background continued to cry for his father, yelling, “Papi! Papi!”
Since President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out its “zero tolerance” immigration policy — which prosecutes undocumented immigrants who cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico — more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents since April, according to the ProPublica.
Arizona Sen. John McCain tweeted against the policy on Monday, writing, “The administration’s current family separation policy is an affront to the decency of the American people, and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded.”
“The administration has the power to rescind this policy. It should do so now,” he added.