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Kristen Bell and GLOW co-showrunner Liz Flahive have teamed with Immigrant Families Together (IFT), a nationwide group formed in response to the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy, to help reunite parents and children separated at the U.S.-Mexican border. IFT, which prides itself on fast-paced work, aims to provide refugee mothers with the funds needed to post bond, as well as the expenses that follow, including legal representation.
Flahive stepped up early in the process by offering to coordinate a cross-country driver for one mother’s trip from Arizona to Miami. The GLOW co-showrunner also helped with fundraising efforts by connecting Tony-nominated producer Brian Swibel (Xanadu, An American in Paris) to the cause. “I think like many other people, I’ve been trying to find a way to do more,” says Flahive, who is a mother of two. “The issue of family separation at the border feels extremely personal.”
Thanks to Swibel’s donation, that same mother has since been released from detention and reunited with her kids in Miami. “The complete betrayal of the humanity of these people and our own Democratic ideals broke my heart and enraged me,” Swibel tells The Hollywood Reporter, who orchestrated a separate donation to RAICES before Flahive reached out to him. “This effort will not be complete until each family has been reunited and healed, and our country can come to terms with how we allowed ourselves to get to this point and make the necessary changes to correct course.”
Bell is the latest member of the Hollywood community to join IFT’s efforts, celebrating her 38th birthday by donating the final $4,457 needed to help successfully post another mother’s bond from the Arizona detention center. Following her donation, the Good Place star posted on Instagram that the donation was inspired by a desire for “a peaceful feeling” on her birthday and encouraged others to follow suit.
A post shared by kristen bell (@kristenanniebell) on
Founded by Julie Schwietert Collazo in late June, IFT established its California chapter on July 8. What began as a GoFundMe campaign by Schwietert Collazo to help one mother — who has since been released — transformed into a nationwide organization. In less than a month, the group has reunited eight mothers with their children and raised a total of $284,609 from multiple GoFundMe campaigns. California team lead Evelyne Belasco says the money raised in such a short period is a testament to the power of word-of-mouth, especially in tight-knit communities like Hollywood.
“It’s funny because when you live and work in L.A. long enough, there becomes a cliche that it’s a small town,” Belasco explains to THR. “It’s so profoundly true. ‘It’s a small town’ is said like, ‘Don’t fuck someone over or your career is screwed,’ but that’s not the case. Everyone is hearing through the grapevine that people are making donations to our tiny group, opening their wallets, and coming forward in more ways than money.”
Those ways include paying for flights, offering to drive cross-country and opening their homes to detained mothers, Belasco adds. And while IFT has been continually fundraising and successfully releasing mothers through individual GoFundMe campaigns, its efforts have come with some unexpected challenges. When IFT began its work, the bond to release each detainee was typically between $7,500 and $15,000 but now, some bonds have gone as high as $30,000, says Belasco. Even after a private donor or donors supplies the money for a detainee’s bond, there’s still the matter of finding the mother transportation (usually from Arizona to New York or Miami, where many of the children have been placed), housing and other support once she reunites with her child. Along with a sense of mission, frustrations among those working to help these refugees run high.
“The crisis is real and full of suffering for children and families,” Belasco continues, “and the government is not going to help us clean it up.”
Adds Swibel: “If there’s one thing history teaches us, it’s that this is not the first time our government has led us astray, and it won’t be the last. We can create a better world, but it takes the will and action of everyday people willing to acknowledge the severity of the crisis we find our nation in and take a stand.”
Yet, amid the controversy, Belasco sees a silver lining. “The thing that has mobilized me to do this is that there are so many people in this country — on both sides of aisle or who don’t care about politics — who are giving up time, money and resources; who are opening up their home because they recognize humanity in everybody.” she says. “That has been the most sustaining part of this work.”
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