Though immigration reform may be left out of this week’s reconciliation bill in Congress, a Roswell husband and father is fighting for a proposal that would reunite separated families—like his.
Jason Rochester, a U.S. citizen and UPS driver, has been married for 14 years to an undocumented woman from Mexico, Cecilia Gonzalez. In 2018, as the Trump administration cracked down on all undocumented residents, not just those who had committed crimes as the Obama administration had emphasized, Gonzalez voluntarily left the country, after she and Rochester got what turned out to be faulty advice from an attorney.
“[We were] trying to do the right thing and it ends up getting her in to a worse situation than we were, ” Rochester tells 95.5 WSB’s Veronica Waters, adding that before following their attorney’s guidance, ‘at least his wife was here.’
>>Hear more from Rochester below in 95.5 WSB Reporter Veronica Waters’ on-air report.
However, because Gonzalez had formal deportations on her record, the law as it stands says she has to be out of the U.S. for 10 years before being allowed to apply for a green card to come back.
Meanwhile, her son, Ashton, now 8, had to fight kidney cancer and endure surgery and chemotherapy without his mother by his side. His cancer is gone now, but his mom still is, too.
“It’s sad to know that that’s his normal,” Rochester tells WSB, adding, “Having a relationship with his mom through a video screen.”
Rochester says that’s why House Bill 2920, also known as the “American Families United Act”, is so important. ‘American Families United’ says more than 1.3 million U.S. Citizens have experienced family separation because a family member has been refused a visa, or deported.
Introduced to Congress in April, the “American Families United Act” would allow U.S. Citizens to request a case-by-case waiver for noncitizen family members to live in the U.S.
Georgia Congresswoman Lucy McBath is one of more than two dozen co-sponsors of the bill.
>>More from the Rochester family in 95.5 WSB Reporter Veronica Waters’ on-air report below.
Today, Rochester’s family only gets together an average of three times a year in Mexico; the rest of the time, they are visiting each other via video screen.
Rochester says he wants families like theirs not to be overlooked as Congress considers helping several groups on a path to citizenship or staying safely in America, like Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders, farmworkers, and essential workers. He notes that he’s considered an essential worker himself.
“I think that they deserve a chance just like we do, but for some reason, they don’t give us a chance,” says Rochester. “That’s all we’re asking for. The same waivers that those other groups need to become citizens is what my wife needs.
“Being American citizens, my son and I, we require that they fight for us.”
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