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Undocumented wife of Trump voter self-deports months before son’s cancer diagnosis
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Undocumented wife of Trump voter self-deports months before son’s cancer diagnosis

Undocumented wife of Trump voter self-deports months before son’s cancer diagnosis

Undocumented wife of Trump voter self-deports months before son’s cancer diagnosis

He lives in north Fulton County, voted for Donald Trump, and is married to an undocumented immigrant. Now, these parents find themselves supporting their son—who has cancer—from both sides of the Mexican border.

“The first time I saw her, I thought she was beautiful,” recalls Jason Rochester about Cecilia Gonzalez. “I loved her laugh.” 

The pair have known each other more than 15 years and will have been married for 12 years this May. They have a five-year-old son, Ashton. But until the past year, he says, even some of their friends didn’t know of Cecilia’s immigration status. She had been in the United States for about 18 years, having immigrated illegally twice, and been caught and sent back to Mexico twice. Rochester was quick to note that she has never been in trouble with the law or had any type of government assistance.

The Obama administration’s deportation policy focused largely on criminals and those who threatened national security, granting relief to many young people and law-abiding others who had been in the States at least five years and who met certain criteria to remain so that they could get renewable work permits. Gonzales was one of those. When Donald Trump became president in 2017, however, things changed.

“He had abolished all the executive orders that [President] Obama had put in place,” explains Rochester, “so therefore, because she was illegal, she didn’t have a status of no priority or low priority. She’s illegal, and the law says if you’re illegal, you are subject to deportation.”

Listen to MORE from Veronica Waters’ interview with Rochester below:

The couple went to Gonzalez’s November appointment with Immigration and Customs Enforcement with an airplane ticket in hand, offering to have the mother self-deport, and asking permission to wait until after the holidays. January 9, 2018, the young family traveled to Guadalajara, where Ashton got to meet some relatives for the first time before he and his father came home without Cecilia. 

“Hard to talk about it,” says Rochester, choking back tears and falling quiet, “because we had to tell my son that Mommy would be home soon. 

And she’s still not here.” 

Gonzalez will be eligible to apply for a visa to return in 10 years, he says. The wait is long because of the previous times she had been caught entering the U.S. illegally.

 

Rochester said he voted for Trump because as a Christian, he decided he could not vote for Hillary Clinton because of her support for keeping Roe v. Wade the law of the land. He believed Trump would make abortion illegal. 

“I know God frowns on abortion,” he says. “There’s nothing in the Bible that says anything about immigration.” 

Then in July, on one of Ashton’s visits to Mexico, Cecilia saw a protrusion on the boy’s side and took him to a hospital. Tests showed the kindergartner had a Wilms tumor—a cancerous tumor that begins in the kidneys—that was the size of a large cantaloupe. 

 

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Ashton Rochester

Ashton had a kidney removed and began a series of cancer treatments at Scottish Rite in Atlanta, which his father says often left the boy shaken and crying.

“He’s terrified when he goes to chemo treatment,” says Rochester. “He’s physically shaking. I do the best I can, but I can only imagine that Mommy’s warm hugs and kisses and just her being there would help.” 

Their son, he says, also doesn’t understand why his mom isn’t there. He video chats with her daily.

 

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Cecilia and Ashton

“Ashton’s asking, ‘Mommy, when are you coming home? You need to go to the airport and tell them you want a plane ticket, so you can come home,’” says Rochester.

The father tells his little boy that “Mommy wants to come home, but our government doesn’t want Mommy here.” 

Rochester began a public relations campaign of sorts on social media, launching a GoFundMe page and a Change.org petition, as well as writing letters to the White House; reaching out to Senator Johnny Isakson and then-Congresswoman Karen Handel; and tweeting President Trump, Vice-President Pence, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Kellyanne Conway, among others, urging them to help reunite his family. Rochester wants a humanitarian parole or other assistance to bring Gonzalez back home, so she can be with her family. ICE has denied it because of Gonzalez’ previous deportations. 

“They didn't even look at the fact that she was trying to get back for my son,” he says. “We're at the mercy of their decision.”

So far, Rochester says, no one has seemed able to him. He received form-letter “Thank you for writing”-type responses from the White House, and much of the attention he has gotten on social media is from people who express confusion about why he voted for a candidate who expressed disdain for illegal immigrants on the campaign trail. 

Rochester admits the policy change was disheartening. His wife, he says, is no “bad hombre.” 

“When Trump was running, he was obviously tough on the illegals and I understood that. But when he said, ‘the bad people,’ be it the gang members and the drug dealers and the violent criminals--all those people that everyone thinks of as a bad person when you start thinking about that. You hear the word ‘bad,’ you don’t think of someone who came into the country illegally to make a better life for themselves and has never caused a problem in the 18 years that they were here. But he classifies them all as bad now,” says Rochester. 

 

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Rochester Wedding

He knows his is not the only family suffering from such a separation, and he hopes for a change in the law that will help all the American citizens who are married to illegal immigrants. Rochester says he and Gonzalez are willing to pay a fine, if need be, but says a decade-long wait is too long for the law-abiding couple and their innocent son.

“We’re not a family of criminals. We’re not just married to give her papers. As a Christian, you’re supposed to marry for love. I don’t think that anybody can fault me for trying. I knew that she was illegal when I married her, but I loved her, and I knew she was a good person, and I figured that we would do our best to try to fix the situation and it just has never come to fruition yet,” says Rochester.

“She’s sorry for her mistake. She’s paying the price more than we ever imagined.” 

 

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News

  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday dismissed President Donald Trump’s tweets threatening to move the Republican National Convention from Charlotte. “I’m not surprised by anything I see on Twitter,” Cooper said. “It’s OK for political conventions to be political, but pandemic response cannot be.” According to WSOC-TV, the governor said state health officials will continue to work with convention organizers to draft guidelines that will ensure the event can be conducted safely during the coronavirus pandemic. “I supported having the convention in North Carolina. But we have to put the health and safety of North Carolinians as the guiding star in this process, and we hope to continue the discussions and look forward to those discussions with the RNC later on this weekend and into next week,” he later added. For months, Republican leaders’ public posture has been that the party’s national convention, where Trump will be formally nominated in August, is “full steam ahead.” But on Memorial Day, the president appeared to hamstring convention planning by threatening to pull the event from Charlotte because of the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions. In a series of tweets Monday morning, the president threatened to pull the event out of North Carolina if Cooper doesn’t immediately sign off on allowing a full-capacity gathering in August, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Trump’s tweets Monday came just two days after the state recorded its largest daily increase in positive cases yet. Currently, mass gatherings at venues like arenas are prohibited as part of Cooper’s executive order because of the potential spread of the novel coronavirus. The RNC is set for Aug. 24 through Aug. 27 at the Spectrum Center and Charlotte Convention Center. Trump expressed his concern about spending millions of dollars without knowing if the state would allow them to fully occupy the space. “Plans are being made by thousands of enthusiastic Republicans and others to head to beautiful North Carolina in August,” Trump said. “They must be immediately given an answer by the governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied.” Trump said if he is not given an answer, he will find another location for the convention. “This is not something I want to do,” Trump said. “Thank you, and I love the people of North Carolina.” Cooper allowed the state to enter a second phase of gradual reopening Friday with some further loosening of restrictions on hair salons, barbers and restaurants. But he said the state must continue to closely watch virus trends and has ordered entertainment venues, gyms and bars to remain closed. On Monday, Cooper responded to Trump’s tweet, saying, “State health officials are working with the RNC and will review its plan as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte. North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state’s public health and safety.” Cooper warned on Tuesday that it is still too early to give the president the assurances he demanded about “whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied.” “Already, we’ve been in talks with the RNC about the kind of convention that they would need to run, and the kind of options that we need on the table. We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be regarding COVID-19 in North Carolina,” he said. On Monday, Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte released a joint statement, saying, “We are in constant communication with our local and federal counterparts to plan and prepare for a safe Republican National Convention (RNC). The City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and other local stakeholders will continue to plan for the RNC while respecting national and state guidance regarding the pandemic. We are working with stakeholders to develop guidelines for several large events planned for Charlotte in the coming months including the RNC and anticipate providing that guidance in June.” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted: “With the health and safety of our residents and visitors being the top priority, the city of Charlotte will continue to follow guidance from Governor Cooper and public health professionals in determining the best and safest way to host the Republican National Convention. While I’ve remained consistent in my statements regarding the RNC being held in Charlotte, the science and data will ultimately determine what we will collectively do for our city.” Meanwhile, two GOP governors on Tuesday offered up their states to host the Republican National Convention. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sent an open plea to Trump on Tuesday to consider his state as an alternate site. Kemp’s offer was followed by one from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The convention is expected to bring tens of thousands of visitors to the Charlotte area and millions of dollars to the local economy. In a letter that North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen sent to the RNC, she requested a written plan for how the convention plans to address COVID-19 safety protocols. The letter came in response to the president’s tweet Monday and confirmed that the RNC and state officials in North Carolina were in talks about convention planning as recent as Friday. “Jordan Whichard from Governor Cooper’s team shared with you the written protocols that NASCAR developed and then refined after discussions with our public health teams which allowed that event to occur in the Charlotte area this past weekend,” she wrote. “While the RNC convention is obviously a very different event with its unique challenges for COVID-19, we hoped it would help illustrate the type of plan that would facilitate further conversations. The status of COVID-19 infections in our state and in the Charlotte area continues to rapidly evolve, thus, it will be important to have several scenarios planned that can be deployed depending on the public health situation.' Cohen urged the RNC to consider “several scenarios” as they continue to move forward with planning, since the abrupt threat from Trump comes just after North Carolina saw its highest one-day spike in cases over the weekend since the onset of the pandemic. Cooper referenced the letter during Tuesday’s briefing, saying he aims to reach a resolution with the RNC about how to move forward with the event. “We’re going to have to take steps to protect people. We have asked the RNC to present to us in writing their proposals. We’ve had discussions with them about a very limited convention all the way up, and we want to see in writing what their plans are,” Cooper said. “We asked NASCAR to do the very same thing, and NASCAR did a good job this weekend of executing their plan,” he added. “We want to see from the RNC what their plans are, and we have asked them to submit those plans to our public health officials. They have someone hired to advise them as well. And we look forward to the back and forth on that. We’d like to reach a resolution that everybody can be reasonable about that puts public health, safety, the science and the facts as the number one thing we’re trying to do here. So we look forward to those continue conversations. Everyone wants to get back into action soon, but I think everyone knows that we have to take certain steps to make sure we’re protected.' After Cooper’s news conference, Trump said the governor needs to confirm within a week whether the GOP convention in Charlotte can go forward. “If he can’t do it, if he feels he can’t do it, all he has to do is tell us, and then we’ll have to pick another location,” Trump said of Cooper. “I don’t want to have it where we get there and they announce ... ‘Guess what? You can’t put anybody in the arena,’ or you can put a tiny number of people in.” Read more here. –Visit WSOCTV.com for the latest on this developing story.
  • The body of a missing 5-year-old boy has been recovered in Ohio, Adams County Sheriff Kimmy Rogers confirmed Tuesday. According to WHIO-TV, Cameron Walters, who was reported missing from Mineral Springs Lake Resort in Peebles on Monday, was found dead in the water Tuesday, but authorities have not specified where. The boy went missing about 5:15 p.m. Monday, officials said. Groups of volunteers and water rescue crews returned to the campground Tuesday to continue the search for the missing boy, according to WCPO-TV. An Endangered Missing Child Advisory was issued for Walters late Tuesday morning, saying he was believed to be in danger. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information about the case to call their department at 937-544-2314. No further information was immediately available. – Visit WHIO.com for the latest on this developing story.
  • Nearly 5.6 million people worldwide -- including more than 1.6 million in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun to shift their focus toward reopening their economies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Wednesday, May 27, continue below: US coronavirus cases approach 1.7M, deaths near 99K Published 12:40 a.m. EDT May 27: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surged toward 1.7 million early Wednesday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, there are at least 1,681,212 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 98,916 deaths.  The hardest-hit states remain New York with 363,836 cases and 29,302 deaths and New Jersey with 155,764 cases and 11,194 deaths. Massachusetts, with 93,693 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 6,473, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 113,195. Only 16 states and territories have confirmed fewer than 6,000 cases each. Five other states have now confirmed at least 52,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 99,684 cases, resulting in 3,823 deaths • Pennsylvania: 72,778 cases, resulting in 5,163 deaths • Texas: 57,230 cases, resulting in 1,546 deaths • Michigan: 55,104 cases, resulting in 5,266 deaths • Florida: 52,255 cases, resulting in 2,259 deaths Meanwhile, Maryland, Georgia and Connecticut each has confirmed at least 41,000 cases; Virginia, Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 32,000 cases; Colorado, North Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee and Washington each has confirmed at least 20,000 cases, followed by Iowa with 17,703 and Arizona with 16,864; Wisconsin and Alabama each has confirmed at least 15,000 cases, followed by Rhode Island with 14,210 and Mississippi with 13,731; Nebraska and Missouri each has confirmed at least 12,000 cases, followed by South Carolina with 10,416; Kansas and Delaware each has confirmed at least 9,000 cases; Kentucky, Utah, the District of Columbia and Nevada each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases, followed by New Mexico with 7,130; Arkansas and Oklahoma each has confirmed at least 6,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.
  • A hair salon in North Carolina is denying service to employees at a Tyson plant due to a coronavirus outbreak. SmartCuts posted a sign at their Wilkesboro location that read, in part, “Due to the number of Tyson employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, we are unable to serve Tyson employees.' The note was widely circulated on social media. Last week, 570 workers at that Tyson plant tested positive for the coronavirus. Some of the Tyson workers WSOC-TV spoke with were upset by the sign placed outside the SmartCuts, but others said they understand the owners’ decision. David Gentry, who has worked at Tyson for years, doesn’t agree with the ban. “Knock on the door, shoot them a bird and cuss them out,” he said. “That’s me.” The business is about two miles from the Tyson plant. The sign said the business would be “unable to serve Tyson employees until approximately June 8, once the recent COVID outbreak has been controlled.” The business has enacted several precautions to keep workers and customers safe, including mask-wearing, temperature checks and social distancing measures. “I think it’s a good thing because too many people are passing who’ve had this virus,” said one customer, Frances McManus. “That there is something this place has to deal with,” said another customer, James Spears. “Because if they come in with the disease, that’s bringing it into their business.” SmartCuts said it will give Tyson employees a $3 discount once they return to providing services to them. Bob Hartley owns SmartCuts and said he’s not only trying to protect his employees but his customers and the community. “If it is unethical in some way that’s still legal but unethical, we will stop it,” he said. “It’s just an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19 on the Wilkesboro community and among our employee group.”
  • The line to get into That One Place stretched down the walkway outside the restaurant. There was no social distancing and virtually no one wore a facemask as they waited for their party to be called to an open table inside. “I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it,” said John Weiman. “It’s about time. It’s time to make a change.” His wife Michelle Weiman added, “I’m looking forward to it, very hungry. Glad he’s doing it.” The Port Orchard restaurant has been open for takeout service during the statewide coronavirus shutdown. But restaurant owner Craig Kenady said he was encouraged by his employees to open his business on Memorial Day to customers seated inside as a way of protesting, saying smaller counties such as Kitsap have fewer cases of COVID-19 and should be treated differently than larger counties such as King, Pierce and Snohomish. “I do think if we’re going to take it on a case-to-case basis then we need to actually look at our county based off of our numbers,' said Kenady. “We’re not in it to break laws, not in it to cause problems. We’re not doing this for politics. We’re doing this for freedom.” Staff in the restaurant wore masks and gloves as they serve patrons. Some tables were kept empty to keep customers further apart from each other. Kenady said his protest would last just one day, on Memorial Day before he goes back to takeout only. “We don’t discount the virus at all. We believe in it and we believe in the severity of it. But we also feel at the same time we can safely operate,” Kenady said.
  • Dozens of tombstones dating from the 19th century were found near a North Carolina neighborhood. A Piedmont Natural Gas worker told WSOC-TV that he found dozens of what appeared to be decades-old tombstones in a wooded area behind the Crestdale Crossing neighborhood. The stones appear to be from the 19th century and have what looks like dates and initials carved in them. The discovery piqued the interest of local historian Jeff Houser who said burial grounds are often lost to developments. Houser believes they are footstones created for a family grave. “These were either pulled up from someplace and set into the woods for some reason,” he said. He said the stones might have never been used, but it would take some time to uncover the truth. “We’d like to know why are these are here, how they got there and who are they for,” Houser said. Historians are working to compare the initials on the stones with census records from that time. Houser said that as of now, there is no official record of a cemetery in the area.