Millions of frequent-flier miles donated to help reunite separated families

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A Michigan professor has inspired people to donate millions of frequent-flier miles to migrant families separated by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

Beth Wilensky, who teaches at the University of Michigan Law School, tweeted on Tuesday that she had donated her husband’s frequent-flier miles to a 3-year-old boy and his father.

“My husband travels a lot,” she wrote. “Downside: he’s gone a lot. Upside: frequent flyer miles. We just used some to fly a 3-year-old and his dad, who had been separated at the border, from Michigan (where the son had been taken) to their extended family.”

Her tweet went viral and Wilensky began directing eager participants to reach out to Miles 4 Migrants, a nonprofit group that reunites refugee families around the world, BuzzFeed News reported Thursday.


Miles 4 Migrants has already received 5.8 million donated airline miles following Wilensky’s tweet, the outlet reported. 

Nick Ruiz, one of the group’s founders, said all of the families reunited have already been approved by the federal government for relocation.

“So when the cases come to us, everything’s good to go,” Ruiz told the outlet. “The only thing holding them back is the cost of the flight.”

Ruiz, a artificial intelligence researcher from New Jersey, first came up with the idea when he met a Pakistani Christian pastor who fled to Italy.

Ruiz decided to donate his frequent-flier miles to the man’s family and reached out to Reddit, BuzzFeed reported.

Ruiz paired up with Louisiana-based optometrist Seth Stanon and Massachusetts-based digital health startup executive Andy Freedman to create Miles 4 Migrants.

“We’re really encouraged people want to work with us,” he said. “Together we can make this happen.”

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a Texas nonprofit that received more than $20 million in donations to reunite families, plans to donate at least $3 million towards its “Flights for Families” funding commitment.

United Airlines also pledged in July to help reunite families.

More than 2,000 migrant families were separated earlier this year after Trump implemented a “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute all migrants who illegally crossed into the country at the southern border.

Trump later signed an executive order to end the practice of family separations. 

Tags family separation frequent flier program Miles 4 Migrants RACIES Trump administration zero tolerance policy United Airlines

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