WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jason Rochester and his family have been fighting for nearly five years to bring his wife Cecilia back home to Georgia after she self-deported to Mexico in 2018 following bad legal advice.
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They’re hoping a bill that has been reintroduced in the House will help reunite their family and others that also involve a U.S. citizen trying to reunite with a spouse who is a non-citizen.
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We told you how Cecilia voluntarily went to Mexico because they thought she would have been able to apply for a green card and return home to Georgia soon. The family later learned it would be at least ten years until she can even apply for re-entry.
Their son Ashton, now 9-years-old, has spent more than half his life without his mom, including when he endured cancer treatment because of a tumor on his kidney.
Thankfully, Ashton is now in good health.
“I’ll do everything I can to bring his mommy home and I have to keep fighting to do it,” said Jason Rochester.
Jason and Ashton came to Washington D.C. again last week as Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) announced the reintroduction of the bipartisan bill dubbed the American Families United Act.
American families deserve to be together.— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) March 22, 2023
I'm proud to reintroduce the American Families United Act today surrounded by those who have been needlessly separated by a cruel and outdated immigration system for far too long. pic.twitter.com/g8Ad2GfBIl
The measure gives the Justice Department or the Department of Homeland Security the ability to use discretion in certain immigration cases.
“I feel confident, hopeful you know that we might make it,” said Ashton about the proposal.
But the Rochester family has pinned their hopes on the bill before, only to see it stall in Congress previously.
We spoke with Escobar about the uphill battle ahead for the measure in Congress.
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“It really is a no brainer,” said Escobar. “This is not an automatic path to citizenship or legalization. This is a path to restoring judicial discretion.”
The bill never made it to a vote on the House floor after being introduced in 2021, but it did previously pass in a House committee.
Now with a Republican majority in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has broadly said he aims to secure the border when it comes to immigration issues, but he has not weighed in on whether he would support the specifics of this proposal.
Our Washington News Bureau has asked McCarthy’s office for comment on the American Families United Act, and we have not heard back.
We asked the conservative-leaning organization the Heritage Foundation about the proposal.
“This bill would create even more and bigger loopholes in our immigration system,” said Lora Ries, Director of Border Security and Immigration Center at the Heritage Foundation. “It codifies and encourages the use of prosecutorial discretion in everyday cases. Prosecutorial discretion should be the very rare exception, not the norm. Furthermore, illegal aliens should not receive immigration benefits for gaining U.S. ties while avoiding deportation or remaining longer in the U.S.”
Despite potential opposition, Escobar said she’s hopeful the Senate may make movement on the measure this year.
“My hope is if we can get the Senate interested in this legislation, then maybe whatever they’re working on and will ultimately send to the House might include this piece of it,” said Escobar.
The Rochester family, meanwhile, said they aren’t giving up.
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“I hope that one day someday listens and the people that actually make the rules and change the laws actually hear my plea,” said Jason Rochester. “I hope it ends soon though. I’m tired of fighting.”
“If it’s a repeat, I don’t know I guess we just have to keep on trying,” said Ashton.
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