A movement that exploded on Twitter has provided millions of donated frequent-flyer miles to help stranded immigrants reunite with their families.
The catalyst was an Aug. 6 tweet by University of Michigan law professor Beth Wilenksy. She tweeted that her often-traveling husband had racked up a store of miles, and they donated some to fly a toddler and his dad, who had been separated at the border, to their extended family. She asked anyone interested in doing the same to send her a direct message.
In no time, the message was retweeted tens of thousands of times, in part with the help of accounts like ALT-immigration, an alt gov Twitter handle launched when President Donald Trump took office that now has 212,000 followers.
“Donate your unused miles to reunite families and I’ll follow you!” cajoled ALT-Immigration in one retweet. Another promised: “I’ll make you pancakes, yo!”
When the responses became too overwhelming for Wilensky to handle alone, she posted another tweet asking people to contact the Michigan Support Circle, which organizes help for immigrants, and Miles4Migrants, which facilitates donations of frequent flyer miles for immigrants.
The day Wilensky tweeted the Miles4Migrants site, the group received pledges of over 1 million miles.
“It’s pretty incredible to see the impact one tweet can have,” Miles4MIgrants co-founder Andy Freedman told MarketWatch.
As of Thursday, donations had ballooned to more than 28 million miles, The New York Times reported.
Miles4Migrants is working with airlines to try to streamline the booking process for immigrants using the donated miles, according to Marketwatch, and is also seeking donations to cover the cost of fees like airport taxes. Michigan Support Circle is working with Miles4Migrants to arrange flights, but it is also looking for other donations to help migrants.
Wilensky obviously struck a chord. She said the donations show that many people, like she and her husband, believe the Trump administration’s immigrant family separations were an “absolute horror.”
People thought, “Oh my gosh, here’s something real and concrete that might help to fix this problem,” she told the Times.
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