Seattle Foundation Blog

SeaFdn Philanthropists Bring Families Together

Urgent, timely efforts are helping reunite families separated at the border

July 26, 2018

The compassion and generosity of Seattle Foundation philanthropists is reuniting families like a Ukrainian grandfather and grandson, following a months-long separation. Seattle Foundation mobilized donations of more than $150,000 to bring together parents and children who had been separated at the southern U.S border. 

The grandfather, who has legal guardianship of his grandson, was caught in implementation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Zero Tolerance Policy. The two crossed the southern border seeking asylum and were separated at the border. The grandfather was transferred here to Washington state without his grandchild, but because he is a grandparent, a federal court order requiring family reunification does not cover his situation. But, Maria Kolby-Wolfe, development and communications director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), said Seattle Foundation’s support helped the nonprofit take the man’s case, guide him through a bond hearing with a Ukrainian interpreter and pay a $7,500 bond to secure his release. He has now been reunited with his grandson.

Seattle Foundation and our philanthropists ignited rapid support for families who were separated and have been detained by federal government. There have been urgent needs to support parents who have been held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma and Federal Detention Center in SeaTac as they are being released. Many are required to pay steep bonds for their release and need plane or bus tickets to reunify with their children, from whom they have been involuntarily separated. Locally, at least 33 parents have been released from federal custody in our region, resulting in 21 reunifications through the work of NWIRP.

While the government reports that more than 1,000 parents have been reunited with their children, many other families’ situations have remain unresolved as of the July 26 deadline, with parents missing, deported, moved to other facilities or deemed ineligible for reunification.

Seattle Foundation has supported family unification in numerous ways, including:

  • Philanthropists and partners have made more than $150,000 in grants to numerous local organizations assisting the families, including the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). 
  • Through the Partnership Mobilization Program, which offers funding on a rolling basis, SeaFdn made a grant to the Seattle Families Belong Together Coalition. This grant allowed the coalition to pull together a week of action to support families. 
  • Staff had an informational briefing with KIND, which shared how they are addressing this issue as well as root causes of the current situation.
  • SeaFdn signed on to a Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees public statement by philanthropic organizations nationwide speaking out against family separation practices.

Philanthropists like Betsy Hale, whose parents left a fund at Seattle Foundation that she and her siblings manage, have also made gifts to the efforts to help these families. Hale took it a step farther, hosting the second parent to be released, a 28-year-old mother named Sindy, in her home for several days in early July. 

Hale attends Plymouth Congregational Church, which is a member of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, a network of faith communities working to support immigrants and provide housing, travel help and more to the released parents. Hale speaks Spanish, which helped as Hale took Sindy to the Salvadorian consul to get permission to travel to Las Vegas to be with her sister, and then to Arizona to be reunited with her eight-year-old son, whom she hadn’t seen in two months.

“She arrived with nothing. Everything was taken from her, including her ID. We went to Goodwill. We bought her a cell phone,” said Hale, who has supported organizations in Latin America and seen many of the reasons driving immigration firsthand.

Sindy has a long road ahead to have her asylum request heard in court, but she and her son are together again. Hale plans to open her home again to more parents in need.

“Like so many people I hear about something and think this is horrible, but when the person is standing in front of me, the story goes right from my head to my heart,” she said.

These collective efforts are having a tangible impact in people’s lives when they most need help, and the groundswell of support from our community has been powerful. We thank those already engaged and activated on this issue. If you want to learn more about how you can help, please contact your philanthropic advisor or reach out to us about becoming a philanthropic partner at





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