Washington, D.C. — With his suitcases in hand, 9-year-old Ashton Rochester made his way through the crowded Mérida International Airport in anticipation of the moment he had been waiting months for - to reunite with his mother.
Cellphone video captured the heartwarming moment when Ashton spotted his mom and ran into her arms.
“There’s mommy,” said Jason Rochester, Ashton’s dad, as the family reunited.
“Oh, I’m so happy,” said Ashton’s mother, Cecilia Gonzalez-Carmona.
For more than half his young life, Ashton has lived in Georgia, while his mom has lived in Mexico.
Cecilia moved to Mexico voluntarily in 2018 because of bad legal advice.
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Her husband Jason is a U.S. citizen, and the family thought Cecilia could apply for U.S. citizenship within about a year.
But they later learned that the law bans her for a minimum of 10 years before she’s even eligible to apply for the re-entry process.
“Now we’re caught in this whirlwind,” said Jason Rochester.
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This week, Washington Correspondent Samantha Manning caught up with the family during their visit to Mexico, after following their journey for more than a year.
“In theory, Ashton will be 14, 15, could be 30 before he ever has his mom at home,” said Jason Rochester. “That’s not a life for a kid.”
To make matters even harder, doctors found a tumor on Ashton’s kidney shortly after his mom left.
He went through cancer treatment and thankfully, is doing well now.
“It’s really hard for me not to be there,” said Cecilia.
The family is fighting for changes to the law, along with the nonprofit group American Families United.
They are pushing for Congress to pass the “American Families United Act,” which is aimed at helping millions of families in similar situations who are separated from their loved ones.
According to the legislation, “under this bill DOJ (Department of Justice) or DHS (Department of Homeland Security) may, on a case-by-case basis, exercise discretion by declining to remove an alien or bar an alien from entering the United States to prevent hardship for the alien’s U.S. citizen spouse, parent, or child.”
“We really are calling on the legislators to roll up their sleeves just like we are and deliver for our American families by making a small change to the law,” said Kali Pliego, president of American Families United.
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The bill has been introduced in the House with dozens of Democratic co-sponsors and three Republican co-sponsors.
But it has not been taken up in the Senate yet.
“The day-to-day gridlock of Washington, D.C. unfortunately, I think, takes a toll and they really forget about the human impact,” said Ashley DeAzevedo with American Families United.
Jason is pleading with the Senate to introduce the bill as well and for it to move toward a vote in both chambers of Congress before this session ends.
“We’re racing the clock and it’s ticking faster than we want it to,” said Rochester.
For months, we have been asking senators from both parties about where they stand on the proposal and so far, support in the Senate remains unclear.
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