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US charity smashes fundraising goal by millions in response to Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy

A fundraising appeal, a controversial fashion choice and criticisms over a celebrity’s “humanism” of the US President saw a Texas charity become $US20 million better-off

Donations for an immigration legal service saw a massive increase in fundraising in response to US President Donald Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy that separated 2,000 families at the Mexican border.

The Refugee and Immigrant Centre for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) typically operates on a $US7 million budget but the influx of donations, owed in large part to a fundraiser, received more than $US20 million in just twelve days.

Development Director at RAICES, Jenny Hixon, said in a Facebook Live session: “It’s a ton of money, but we’re actually up against the federal government.

“They obviously have well more than $US20 million to both detain and prosecute these folks,” Hixon said of the US government, adding: “We really want to make sure that we’re able to represent everybody who needs representation.”

The donations came mostly from a fundraiser started by Charlotte and Dave Willner who started with a goal of just $US1,500 to raise for the Texas charity but have since seen more than $US20 million in donations come in over the last twelve days.

The couple were inspired to start the fundraiser, named ‘Reunited an immigrant parent with their child’, after they saw the viral image of a frightened girl at the border.

“These aren’t kids we don’t have to care about. They’re like our kids,” Charlotte Willner told the San Jose Mercury News, adding: “When we look at the faces of these children, we can’t help but see our own children’s faces.”

Soon after the campaign went live, Dave Willner reported that the rate of donations was coming in at nearly $4 thousand a minute.

“We do not have the words to thank Charlotte and Dave Willner,” RAICES posted on Facebook. “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.”

In another instance of support, feminist fashion brand Wildfang launched its own version of Melania Trump’s controversial ‘I really don’t care, do u?’ jacket. Their version have the words ‘I really care, do u?’ and all sale proceeds go to RAICES.

Just one hour after launching the first 100 jackets, Wildfang reported they sold out. In just three days the brand had raised around $US250,000 for the organisation and had plans to expand the collection to continue donating to the charity.

“Last week was a really hard week to watch the news,” Wildfang CEO, Emma McIlroy, told Teen Vogue. “It felt like we sunk to a new low.

“When you have a position and a platform and a reach like FLOTUS it’s really naïve to suggest that your fashion doesn’t matter,” McIlroy said, adding: “Fashion has been historically a very political way to express our views.”

RAICES are also set to receive a donation from The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon after he tweeted the announcement following criticism from Trump.

The late-night host came under fire for his interview with the President before the 2016 election and expressed regrets in a recent article. Trump responded to the article on twitter by saying Fallon was “whimpering” and should “be a man”.

In response to this, Fallon tweeted: “In honour of the President’s tweet I’ll be making a donation to RAICES in his name.” It is unclear how much he donated.

The money the charity have received will go to legal fees, bonds for families to be released from prison and can find their children again and transportation costs. These funds are expected to dispel with cases costing $US2,500 to $US15,000.

Currently the organisation, which did not expect the significant influx of support from community groups and people across the world, are working to hire more staff. They currently have 50 lawyers but “plans to go on a hiring spree”.

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