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Frequent fliers donate nearly 6 million miles to reunite immigrant families after a viral tweet

Yoni Blumberg

Among the numerous hurdles immigrant families face after being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border is the cost of travel, reports the New York Times. Some relatives are being asked to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in order to reunite.

To help alleviate that burden, several organizations are accepting donations of frequent-flyer miles to book travel for the families, an idea that gained traction after a tweet from Beth Wilensky, a law professor at the University of Michigan, went viral on Monday.

"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."

The tweet has been liked by nearly 140,000 people and retweeted more than 30,000 times.

Wilensky disabled her direct messages after they began piling up in her inbox, she tells CNBC Make It, and she pinned a new tweet to her profile referring people to two organizations: Miles4Migrants and Michigan Support Circle.

As of Friday, Miles4Migrants has received 5.8 million donated miles, according to Buzzfeed News. That's roughly $58,000 in value.

"Flights can be incredibly expensive, especially last minute," Seth Stanton, a director of Miles4Migrants, told Business Insider. "Using miles helps us book these tickets to make reunifications possible."

Michigan Support Circle, meanwhile, went from having eight pledged donors on standby, ready to purchase a ticket with their miles upon request, to 260, founder Rosalie Lochner tells CNBC Make It .

The local, grassroots organization set out to help immigrant children brought to foster homes in Michigan by sending out requests on Facebook for donations — seeking items like diapers and spare car seats — as well as volunteers. There was one request, Wilensky says, to see if anyone was able to meet a mother traveling to an unfamiliar city on a bus that was getting in at midnight.

"They're really relying on this network of volunteers, wherever they are, to help support them," Wilensky says.

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