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Michigan moms and rabbi rally to provide resources for reunited migrant families

Rabbi Josh Whinston
Kathryn Condon / Michigan Radio
Rabbi Josh Whinston helped start the Facebook group Migrant Mother Drivers to help migrant families with their transportation needs.


The plight of migrant children being separated from their families at detention centers has grabbed the attention of many across the country. The first reunification deadline to reunite children under five with their families was Tuesday.

From this crisis many grassroots groups have sprung up, as parents, teachers, foster parents, and religious leaders search for ways to help migrant families who were separated.

Rabbi Josh Whinston from Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, and Rosalie Lochner, a stay-at-home mom from Grosse Point Park, joined Cynthia Canty to share what they are doing as deadlines approaches to bring migrant families back together.

Lochner, who was in Detroit making preperations for the families who were reunited in Grand Rapids earlier today, said she was "running around. Doing as much as we can—preparing bedrooms, getting toys and clothes, [and] lining up people who can interpret."

She is part of a grassroots group called Michigan Support Circle, which formed out of another grassroots group, Immigrant Families Together, which focuses on bringing children from detention centers in Arizona to their parents in New York and Florida.

Recognizing a similar need in Michigan, the Michigan Support Circle was created in order to help bring migrant children and parents together within Michigan.

Lochner credits the story of Yeni Gonzalez as her inspiration for getting involved. Gonzalez traveled from Arizona to New York to be reunited with her children last week -- a journey Rabbi Josh Whinston drove the Ann Arbor to Pittsburgh leg of.

Gonzalez is from a small village in Guatemala, in an area that is controlled by a gang. She was reluctant to leave her house for fear that the gang would either kill or recruit her 11-year-old son. One of the things that surprised Whinston during their conversations from Ann Arbor to Pittsburgh was that despite the dire circumstances Gonzalez left, she says if she would have known the reality that would face her upon coming to the United States she would have stayed in Guatemala.

Driving Gonzalez and hearing her story moved Whinston to start a Facebook group, Migrant Mother Drivers. For those interested in driving migrant parents to reunite with their children, the page provides a way for them to easily volunteer if and when the need arises. 

“This is beyond separation, this is stealing. The government is stealing children from their parents,” Whinston said. “I cannot just sit by and do nothing.”

Lochner said a similar feeling inspired her to do something about the situation.

“I felt called upon as a citizen of this country to act in any way I could,” she said.

As far as what action the future holds for volunteers like Lochner and Whinston depends on the needs of the families. Whether it's helping them as they move on to other places or helping them settle in Michigan, providing a strong support network is part of the plan.  

“The goal here is to make these families feel as supported as possible,” Lochner said.

This post was written by Michigan Radio digital production assistant Kathryn Condon. 

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