Things That Matter

A New York Family Is Coming Together To Support The Father After Forgetting His Twins In His Car When At Work

A family is grieving an unimaginable tragedy. Father Juan Rodriguez accidentally left his 1-year-old twins, Luna and Pheonix Rodriguez, in his car when he arrived to work. Eight hours later, Juan went back to his car to drive home when he had the realization that his twins had been strapped in their car seats the entire day. A community has come together to help the grieving family.

Iraq veteran and social worker for the VA is facing charges for leaving his twins in his car when he went to work.

Credit: Facebook

Juan works as a social worker for the James J. Peters VA Hospital in the Bronx. On Friday, July 23, the father of the twins, who had just turned 1, went to work and forgot to leave his children at daycare. Juan then worked a full day and it wasn’t until he was back in his car and already driving when he realized that his children were still strapped into their car seats in the back seat.

Witnesses say they saw Juan stepping out of his car crying and screaming for help.

Credit: Eyewitness News ABC7NY / YouTube

“He’s screaming and he gets on the phone and is like, ‘Oh my god, my kids died. Oh my God, my kids died,” one witness told local news. “He was very very very sad.”

Authorities have paused on an indictment leading some to believe the original charges will be reduced or dropped.

Credit: CBS New York / Twitter

“We are speaking to the district attorney’s office to convey to them, what I think that they know and understand, that this was a horrific and terrible tragedy,” Rodriguez’s Attorney Joey Jackson told the press. “Obviously, my client, Mr. Rodriguez, his wife, his mom, his dad, his beautiful family, his 16-year-old, his 12-year-old, his 4-year-old, they’re completely crushed by this incident.”

Jackson confirmed that Juan will be back in court on Aug. 27 to see if the grand jury has found enough evidence to indict Juan for the death of his children.

Strangers are coming together to raise money for the families legal and funeral costs linked to the tragedy.

Credit: Eyewitness News ABC7NY / YouTube

“Juan Rodriguez is a loving father and a dedicated husband, with a relentless drive to improve the lives of his family and community. A disabled veteran, as well as a social worker for the VA Hospital in the Bronx; he has first-hand knowledge of how traumatic experiences can impact lives” reads the GoFundMe set up for the family. “He has helped countless veterans with their daily lives and has served as a liaison between veterans, and outside agencies that work closely with the VA hospital. He has dedicated his life to public service, positively affecting thousands of lives. Juan is an honest and hard-working man. A man who now has to deal with the same type of traumatic loss that he has helped others cope with in the past.”

The GoFundMe has raised more than $89,000 so far.

Credit: GoFundMe

“This incident was a heartbreaking accident that has impacted the entire family. We are asking for your support, to help them get through this horrible and dark moment, and to find peace during this nightmare,” reads the GoFundMe account. “The family seeks to mourn together and be reunited, while they begin to tackle the impossible task of going on with their lives. We are asking for community support, in the same manner that Juan and Marissa have supported this community, while they cope with this tragedy.”

The family is standing behind Juan as he battles in the courts.

Credit: Facebook

“Though I am hurting more than I ever imagined possible, I still love my husband,” Marissa Rodriguez, his wife, said in a statement on Sunday. “This was a horrific accident, and I need him by my side to go through this together.”

Funeral services for the twins are being held on Friday, August 2, less than one month after the twins celebrated their first birthday.

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Despite A New Law, Some New York County Clerks Say They’ll Refuse To Give Undocumented Residents Driver’s Licenses

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Despite A New Law, Some New York County Clerks Say They’ll Refuse To Give Undocumented Residents Driver’s Licenses

@EddieATaveras / Twitter

The “Green Light Law” passed in New York last June, making it one of 14 states to allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses. The passage was believed to be a landmark victory as the measure was stalled for over two decades. However, some county clerks who reside in the more conservative areas of New York have resisted the policy. Some even say they will refuse to give undocumented immigrants their licenses in protest. 

The stance seems similar to one Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis made in 2015 when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis was ordered to issue the licenses by a U.S. District Court and when she defied them, she was jailed for contempt of court. 

New York County Clerks rebel against a new law allowing undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses.

Some county clerks have threatened to even call Immigrations and Customs Enforcement on undocumented immigrants who try to obtain licenses. 

“If you come into my facility and you have done something illegal, it is my obligation to report you to the appropriate authorities, whether you’re a citizen or not,” Robert L. Christman, the Allegany County clerk, told the New York Times.

A federal judge threw out one of three lawsuits filed by the dissident clerks on Friday, claiming Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns did not prove any suffering due to the law. 

“It is apparent Plaintiff disagrees with the Green Light Law,” Judge Elizabeth Wolford wrote in her decision. “But the mere disagreement with a duly-enacted state statute does not entitle anyone — even an elected official — to seek intervention from a federal court.”

Attorney General Letitia James argued that the “Green Light Law” is a benefit to public safety. 

“The law aims to make our roads safer, our economy stronger, and allows immigrants to come out of the shadows to sign up as legal drivers in our state,” she said in a statement. “That’s why the claims made in this lawsuit not only disregarded these simple truths but were misinformed and disregarded the privacy rights of New Yorkers.”

Immigrant advocates believe the rebellion is a scare tactic to thwart immigrants away from the service. 

“This is a scare tactic,” said Jackie Vimo, a policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, told the Times. “They are mirroring the politics of fear we’ve seen nationally with the Trump administration.”

Clerks claim the influx of immigrants will overburden the system.

The clerks claimed that the law would overburden the system which would incur new costs like hiring additional workers and training staff to understand and process foreign paperwork. Mostly, they were outspoken about not wanting to serve immigrants. 

“You are asking me to give a government document to somebody who is in our country breaking federal law. That is 100 percent wrong,’’ said Joseph A. Jastrzemski, the Niagara County clerk. “It compromises my oath of office to defend the Constitution.”

However, proponents of the law say the revenue from the new applications would pay for the additional costs.

“The Fiscal Policy Institute, a left-leaning research institute, estimated that the state would earn$57 million in annual revenue and $26 million in one-time revenue from driver’s licenses, new car purchases, registrations and sales and gas taxes,” according to the New York Times. 

A law over two decades in the making has immigrant advocates stunned. 

“I grew up poor and undocumented and never imagined that one day I could help change the history of our state. Gracias mami for your sacrifice. We got Drivers Licenses for all!” NY State Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz tweeted. “After today, no child will have to know the fear of emergency planning in case mom or dad are picked up by ICE.”

In 2007, Governor Elliot Spitzer issued an executive order that allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses. After opposition from Senator Hillary Clinton and Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand along with bipartisan lawmakers and clerks, Spitzer rescinded the order just two months later. 

“For a long time, driver’s licenses had been the third rail of New York state politics,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “[This] put to rest the notion that you couldn’t do anything controversial around immigration.”

A driver’s license can help shield immigrants from deportation by allowing them to provide identification during things like routine traffic stops. It can also give them better access to housing, jobs, and public services. Oregon and New Jersey have begun to consider similar measures and discussions have initiated in six other states as well. 

“We are seeing momentum growing right now, especially following New York where it has been such a long and hard-fought struggle,” Vimo said. “This really changes political calculations and removes a lot of the excuses other states had not to pass similar legislation.”

San Diego State University Student Dies After Being Hospitalized Following Frat Party

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San Diego State University Student Dies After Being Hospitalized Following Frat Party

Carly Bernado / GoFundMe

San Diego State University has announced that freshman student Dylan Hernandez died over the weekend. Hernandez, 19, reportedly attended a ‘fraternity event’ Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, Hernandez’s body “was found pulseless and apneic by his roommate in their dorm room,” according to San Diego’s Medical Examiner’s report. Hernandez was transported to Alvarado Hospital on Thursday and died Sunday, surrounded by family from his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.

All 14 fraternities affiliated with San Diego State University (SDSU) were placed on suspension upon Hernandez’s hospitalization and will remain suspended until further notice. 

Dylan Hernandez is described as an “outgoing, light-hearted and goofy person who had so much love to give to everyone he met.”

Credit: Bart Hernandez / Facebook

Dylan was an outgoing, light-hearted and goofy person who had so much love to give to everyone he met,” writes GoFundMe organizer Carly Bernado. “He never failed to make everyone in the room smile and his laugh was infectious. He was a first-semester student at San Diego State University. This is being created to raise money to help to create memorials for family and friends as a way to grieve, and remember Dylan for all the lives he was able to touch.”

A GoFundMe for funeral and memorial expenses has raised nearly $29k at the time of publication.

Credit: Carly Bernado / Facebook

The fundraiser was seemingly started by Hernandez’s girlfriend, Carly Bernado. Over 800 donations have come in, many of which from SDSU classmates or alumni, seeking to support the family during this difficult time. 

“This young man, Dylan, was my daughter’s next-door neighbor in the dorm at SDSU. He died suddenly this past week,” Maria Bernal Toretta shared on Facebook. “He was a nice, respectable young man who was helpful and kind to my daughter. Please pray for him and for his family; they will be needing many prayers. If you feel inclined to donate to the go fund me account, the link is below. I am truly sorry for this family’s loss.” 

San Diego State’s University Police Department is currently investigating the cause of death.

Credit: Carly Bernado / GoFundMe

“UPD is investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident,” University Police said in a statement. “Although the investigation is preliminary, UPD is taking this matter very seriously. As this is an ongoing investigation, UPD cannot provide additional details at this time.” The medical examiner’s office could invite San Diego Police to investigate the case if it rules Hernandez’s death a homicide.

Hernandez reportedly fell off his bunk bed after returning home from a frat party.

Credit: Julia Hernandez / Facebook

The following morning, Hernandez’s roommate returned to find him unconscious and without a pulse, after suffering a head injury from his fall. His roommate called 911 at 8:49 a.m. Thursday to the sixth floor of Tenochca residence hall. Hernandez was in the midst of pledging to Phi Gamma Delta, one of the fourteen fraternities associated with the Interfraternity Council (IFC). Six of those fraternities were already under suspension and an additional four were under investigation.  SDSU President Adela de la Torre suspended all fourteen IFC fraternities effective Friday, November 8. 

The following day, de la Torre emailed the entire student body urging students with any information to come forward, after university police “uncovered information which alleges that a fraternity was involved in possible misconduct.” Several students told CBS News that Hernadez “over partied,” alluding to overconsumption of alcohol. Hernandez, 19, was below the legal drinking age. Many are demanding an alcohol ban on fraternity property, referring to the injuries and deaths caused by “hazing.”

SDSU President Adela de la Torre said the university will continue offering mental health support to those who are affected.

Credit: Carly Bernado / Facebook

In a statement, De La Torre addressed the SDSU community to say, “It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to say that Dylan Hernandez, the student who was hospitalized last week, has passed away. His family gave their goodbyes late Sunday night.” She also acknowledged that Hernandez’s impact on the community was felt and that therapists with Counseling and Psychological Services will continue offering their resources for students, faculty, and staff.

Our hearts go out to the Hernandez family during this difficult time.

Credit: Sylvie Laporte Hernandez / Facebook

Dylan Hernandez, 19, is survived by his sisters, Julia and Kayla Hernandez, and his parents, Sylvie Laporte Hernandez and Bart Hernandez. “Love you forever buddy,” his sister Julia commemorated on a social media post.

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