The stories and trauma of families separated at the border flooded the news more than a year ago.
The summer of 2018 was the very height of what many called a crisis and one that hit very close to home. Children were torn apart from their families and moved thousands of miles away to Harlem’s Cayuga Center.
It’s where we first met Julie Schwietert Collazo. While juggling her own family and their needs, she along with other concerned New York City women and mothers sprang into action and crowdsourced money and resources to bail out migrant families and in some cases reunite them with their children.
“I think the particular void that we filled was that we came to do the work quickly. Because we were not a formal group we were able to execute quickly,” said Collazo of Immigrant Families Together.
Immigrant Families Together was born organically and exhibited the power of social media and the power of people just wanting to help others. Today, their work continues with just as much fervor, intensity and urgency.
Collazo says to this very day, the Cayuga Center continues to be contracted by the federal government and receives migrant children and they have facilitated a number of reunifications even within the past few months.
Since June 2018, Julie and Immigrant Families Together raised more than $2 million, posted bond for 84 adults and the bond is often paid in Manhattan and posted for people detained at more than 24 different border facilities in other states. Nearly half the money they raised got people out of those detention centers and brought them here to their children. The other half is used for ongoing support for these families and that means housing, legal counsel, medical dental and mental health help, transportation and food.
With the help of State Sen. Michael Gianaris, the group secured $20,000 for themselves in the state budget.
“It’s still a crisis. There are still families in need. There are still families separated back then who need to be reunited. These are just everyday people who saw an injustice and wanted to do something about it and networked with each other,” said Gianaris.
Collazo says the group is working on thinking of a long term plan on how to keep their work sustainable.
If you’d like to help them and their partner organizations, visit their websites at: