by Sarah Cochran
Rene Roque (“Rocky”) Mendez and I have been together for 12 years. We live in Taft, CA. I met Rocky when I was moving into a new house; I spotted him sitting by his neighbor’s window. When I saw him, my heart immediately started beating faster. It was like love at first sight.
When I found out he was moving from my neighbor’s house and had nowhere to go, I offered to let him sleep in a tent in my backyard. About three months later, we were together.
Rocky saved my life — literally. We had moved into an apartment in December 2007, and one month later, in January, a fire broke out. I was standing on the second floor windowsill with the fire behind me. Rocky said we had to jump, but I was too scared and I refused. So he pushed me, then he jumped out too.
We lost everything in the fire. I suffered burns on the back of my arms, legs and feet and I’m still in pain from the injuries I sustained from the escape. But I would have died if Rocky hadn’t forced me out the window. On top of that, I have a heart condition. I can’t work anymore because I’m disabled. I can’t even go out much.
Rocky arrived in the U.S. from Mexico in 2000. He was seeking financial security and a safe place to live. He had been badly mugged in Mexico. The nerve damage to his arm was so severe a surgeon told him he should have it amputated. He didn’t, but he needs to wear a compression sleeve all the time.
Rocky is a field worker; usually, he works six days a week. On June 6, Rocky and six others were heading to work in a van when ICE vehicles surrounded them. Five of the men in the van were arrested — including Rocky.
He was allowed one phone call on his cell phone. I got the call around 9 a.m. He told me he’d been arrested that he was at the Immigration offices in Bakersfield. He was really upset. In the middle of our conversation an officer grabbed the phone from Rocky and told me I had to get $7,000 by 2:30 p.m. if I wanted Rocky released — and then he hung up.
My first thought was that this must be a joke. Then the fear hit me, as if I’d been punched in my stomach. Rocky and I had been together 12 years — what would happen to him, to us?
Later, a friend, whose husband (Martin) was also arrested, came over and confirmed the bad news. When I finally got to the Immigration office, I was allowed to see Rocky for only fifteen minutes. I told him not to sign any papers. That afternoon, Rocky and Martin were transferred to the Mesa Verde Detention Center.
The last time I visited Rocky was on July 9. I can’t visit him every week because I don’t have a car. But if I don’t visit every week, he gets depressed and thinks I’ve forgotten about him.
When we’re together, we try and talk about positive things, about when he will come home. But he wants out. He says the facility is OK, that he’s being treated OK, but I can see that he’s lost weight. I’m afraid he’s not telling me everything because of my heart condition.
We don’t have any money to pay an attorney; my disability check barely covers my basic bills. I have an appointment with a lawyer on July 16, but I don’t know what will happen. Rocky has a court date coming up on July 30. The judge has said they are willing to lower his bail if I can show the court my medical records, and I’m trying to pull them all together.
Please help me raise funds for my Rocky. I feel like I am letting down the man who saved my life. He is a good person and a hard worker. My health issues make it difficult to live by myself. He needs to come home.
Please help bring Rocky home by donating to Sarah’s GoFundMe campaign: