Both sides of bor­der bat­tle turn to crowd­fund­ing as tool

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Fed up with the slow pace of progress in build­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s bor­der wall, some en­ter­pris­ing cit­i­zens have de­cided to take mat­ters into their own hands.

Dozens of peo­ple have launched GoFundMe ac­counts to raise money that they say they will make sure is used to push the pres­i­dent’s plans for his “great, beau­ti­ful wall.”

Not to be out­done, il­le­gal im­mi­grant “Dream­ers” have also turned to “crowd­fund­ing” to raise money, ask­ing for do­na­tions to pay their fees as they rush to ap­ply for re­newed sta­tus un­der the Obama-era De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram that keeps them from be­ing de­ported.

Amer­i­cans have opened their wal­lets, do­nat­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to more than 600 proim­mi­grant cam­paigns as they look for ways to be­come per­son­ally in­volved in the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate.

“This is cer­tainly a way they can do that, and it makes a big dif­fer­ence to these peo­ple,” said Peter Boogaard, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor at FWD.us, a pro-im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cacy group founded by tech ex­ec­u­tives that is work­ing with GoFundMe to high­light the DACA cam­paigns. “They’re not ask­ing for huge amounts of money. They’re ask­ing for a lit­tle bit of sup­port to make their abil­ity to re­new their ap­pli­ca­tions a lit­tle eas­ier.” Dream­ers aren’t alone. Other il­le­gal im­mi­grants have gone on­line to ask for help in fight­ing their own de­por­ta­tions or to beg for cash to pur­sue green cards sig­ni­fy­ing per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus, or to ful­fill other plans.

One craft com­pany sought to raise $4,626 on Kick­starter to make cards prais­ing DACA re­cip­i­ents, also known as “Dream­ers.” That cam­paign fell well short of its goal.

But Mari­bel Ser­rano, a DACA re­cip­i­ent, raised more than $10,000 on Indiegogo to pro­duce a film about her first re­turn to her Mex­i­can home­town.

Like so much else in the mod­ern world, po­lit­i­cal cam­paign­ers are in­creas­ingly go­ing dig­i­tal to pur­sue their causes — and to raise the fi­nances that their ac­tivism re­quires.

Just this week, sup­port­ers of Chris­tine Blasey Ford, the women whose al­le­ga­tions of an at­tempted sex­ual as­sault more than 35 years ago have threat­ened to up­end Judge Brett M. Ka­vanaugh’s path to the Supreme Court, turned to GoFundMe to raise money to help her with se­cu­rity and le­gal fees.

As of Thurs­day evening, more than $330,000 had been raised across four cam­paigns.

For many of the cam­paigns, the key seems to be to tug at the heart­strings — and get friends to share links to the cam­paign across Twit­ter, Face­book and other so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

Juan de la Rosa, a DACA re­cip­i­ent from Vir­ginia, asked for money so he and his sis­ter could ap­ply to re­new their two-year per­mits.

“That’s why I am ask­ing for some help from those who may have the re­sources to donate even a lit­tle. It will al­low me to con­tinue a new job in a field I am pas­sion­ate about and it will al­low my sis­ter to con­tinue her ed­u­ca­tion,” he said.

He launched his cam­paign Aug. 5 and is ask­ing for $1,000 — enough to pay two DACA ap­pli­ca­tion fees, at $495 a pop. Within days, he had re­ceived two dozen pledges to­tal­ing $1,105.

“Hope this helps! Abol­ish ICE!” wrote Mar­garet Bres­lau, who pledged $50.

Mr. de la Rosa didn’t re­spond to an in­quiry sent through his cam­paign page.

Nei­ther did a half-dozen other DACA re­cip­i­ents or donors whom The Wash­ing­ton Times tried to reach through their GoFundMe pro­files.

On the other side of the is­sue are the wall builders, who are frus­trated that Congress has been slow to find the $20 bil­lion in ad­di­tional money it will take to fin­ish the pres­i­dent’s plans.

More than 200 GoFundMe cam­paigns have sprung up ask­ing Amer­i­cans to per­son­ally chip in.

“The long and the short an­swer is we want the wall, we want this mis­sion to go for­ward,” said Steve Sprague, who launched his cam­paign four weeks ago.

He set a goal of $100 mil­lion and had 13 do­na­tions to­tal­ing $743 as of Thurs­day. That is one of the more suc­cess­ful cam­paigns. On GoFundMe, fi­nan­cial re­quests for build­ing the wall to­tal more than $16 bil­lion — nearly the to­tal the fed­eral govern­ment says is needed to com­plete Mr. Trump’s plans — but they have gen­er­ated less than $10,000, a tiny frac­tion of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars the proDACA side has raised.

“I think that the left in gen­eral has done a very good of paint­ing DACA re­cip­i­ents as not quite vic­tims, but as the best and the bright­est,” Mr. Sprague told The Times. “When you dig into the fact of what DACA is and you dig into the fact of how that sys­tem works, I think it be­comes a lit­tle mud­dier.”

His pro-wall cam­paign has run into a cou­ple of hic­cups, in­clud­ing an­gry re­ac­tion from peo­ple who have seen the links he posted on Twit­ter.

“Now the en­tire world will know what a racist you are!” said one an­gry Twit­ter user.

Mr. Sprague said Twit­ter has since black­listed his cam­paign, mean­ing he can no longer post links to it out­side of his own page.

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