Guests attending a town hall event in Sahuarita for "We Build the Wall, Inc." heard from two Arizonans known as "angel parents." The term describes someone whose children were killed by immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Lorraine Rivera spoke to Mary Ann Mendoza and Steve Ronnebeck about the causes they've undertaken since losing their children.
Mendoza's son, Brandon Mendoza, was driving home from his shift as a Mesa police officer when a man driving the wrong direction slammed into the officer's car in 2014. Both men were killed. Investigators learned the other man was drunk and in the country illegally. Since then, Mary Ann Mendoza has become outspoken about stricter immigration laws she believes could have prevented her son's death.
"I wrote a couple letters to President Obama at the time with no response. And I just knew it was an uphill battle. We had politicians who didn't care," Mendoza said.
Mary Ann's pain is shared by Steve Ronnebeck. In 2015, his son Grant Ronnebeck was working at a convenience store when a customer became disgruntled and shot and killed the 21-year-old Ronnebeck. The Arizona Republic reported that the suspect was facing deportation at the time, but was out on bond. Steve Ronnebeck now supports the initiative by "We Build the Wall" to build a border wall on private lands with help from private donors.
"I don't necessarily want Grant remembered for what happened to him. But since it did happen, I'd like his name and him to be remembered as the face of something historic and something good," Ronnebeck said. "This is pretty historic when you have 300-and-some thousand American citizens that are opening up their wallets to do what our government hasn't been able to do."