CINCINNATI -- Last year, Safi Duncan's Fourth of July lemonade stand raised money for a new set of LEGOs. This year, the Northside 5-year-old and his mother brought out their coolers, lawn chairs and hand-drawn signs for a different cause: Reuniting immigrant families separated by the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy toward those who cross the United States-Mexico border illegally.
"Just the thought of any child being taken away from their parents when they're trying to provide a better situation for them is just utterly heartbreaking," Duncan's mother, Molly Sternberg, said. "The smallest thing I can do to offer my support, I am all in."
The suggestion was hers, she said, but her son quickly became enthusiastic about making a charitable cause part of their fundraiser.
"(I wanted to do it) because it's nice," he said. "It was fun."
Half of the proceeds from the stand, which netted about $158 throughout the scorching holiday, will go toward the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.
RAICES is a Texas-based organization that helps migrants, including children, pay their bail bonds if detained, prepare for citizenship applications and asylum interviews and find affordable legal representation if they are victims of crime.
Recently, it became one of the most prominent voices calling to reunite parents and children separated by the short-lived but still-impactful "zero tolerance" policy that resulted in the prosecution of all adults who illegally crossed the border, including those seeking asylum. Over 2,000 families that crossed together were separated as the adults went to jail and children went to large-scale detention camps, where they were held in kennel-like enclosures and frequently in extreme emotional distress.
Although President Trump ended the "zero tolerance" practice with an executive order, few of these families have been reunited. Some parents were deported while their children remained in United States custody.
"People were so loving and so supportive" when they learned what the lemonade stand was about, Sternberg said. "So many people said, ‘Keep the change,' or ‘Here's five dollars extra.'"
That last part was exciting for Duncan, he said. Although half of the proceeds from his lemonade stand will go toward helping immigrant families, the remaining half is being put toward the same use as last year: LEGO.