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Moms raise $169K to help migrant moms get released, reunited with kids

FILE - In this Friday, June 22, 2018, file photo, a mother, left, and son, from Guatemala, hold hands during a news conference following their reunion in Linthicum, Md., after being reunited following their separation at the U.S. border. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

PHOENIX — An effort to reunite migrant mothers with their children after being separated at the United States-Mexico border is being led by a group of fellow moms.

The New York-based group Immigrant Families Together has helped six mothers get released from the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona since its formation less than a month ago. The group paid their bonds – which ranged from $7,500 to $25,000 – using donations.

Julie Schwietert-Collazo, founder of Immigrant Families Together, said the group has raised more than $169,000 for their efforts.

“That money goes not just to bonds, but to the long-term sustenance of these parents,” she said. “Once they’re bonded out, that’s really only the beginning of their journey.”

She said the money also goes toward supporting the migrant mothers as they go through their immigration proceedings and try to regain custody of their children.

Though based in New York, the group has a nationwide network of volunteers who help coordinate drivers to take the moms on a cross-country trip to reunite with their children.

Yeni Gonzalez Garcia was the first mother they helped release and reunite with her three children in New York.

Schwietert-Collazo referred to Gonzalez Garcia as “the hero of this story.” She explained that the Guatemalan mom “committed when she was in the Eloy Detention facility to recording and remembering the names and details of the other women that she was detained with.”

She then provided that information to the Immigrant Families Together and attorneys, who’ve been keeping track of the women to see when they’ll be issued a bond.

Schwietert-Collazo said they know of 18 mothers, most of them being kept inside the Eloy Detention Center, who are close to being issued a bond for their release.

She said they hope to continue raising money to help pay for the bonds of these and other moms. So far, they’ve received donations ranging from as little as $5 to as much as $7,500.

“The donations are coming from ordinary people who’ve said ‘I want to show up, and I want to do something to help,’” Schwietert-Collazo said.

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