Oncology nurse deported last year is back home in US: 'This is really a dream that I never expected'
Maria Mendoza-Sanchez is back home in time for Christmas. The oncology nurse, deported 16 months ago, won her fight to return to the U.S., this past weekend leaving on a one-way flight from Mexico to Oakland, California. “This is really a dream that I never expected,” she said, surrounded by her three children. “Thank God for everybody. I’m really happy to be back.”
It wasn’t an easy fight for this family, which was ripped straight through the middle by the Trump administration. Ordered to leave last year, Mendoza-Sanchez and her husband, Eusebio, were forced to take their youngest child, a U.S. citizen, with them while their older daughters tried to carry on with their lives here. “There were many nights I couldn’t sleep,” she told cameras on her return. “There many days I was ready to give up.”
But she didn’t, and a cautiously optimistic development from this past spring became a full-fledged reality. “The journey home required a winning ticket in a visa lottery this spring, then a series of approvals from agencies in a Trump administration that has taken an increasingly hard line on immigration from Latin America,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.“The visa is an H-1B, reserved for skilled workers such as nurses in hospital cancer wards.”
The hospital where Mendoza-Sanchez had lovingly cared for her patients sponsored her visa, and on Saturday she returned. One of her daughters, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient Vianney, was the first of the kids to hug their mom. “You’re home,” she cried. “It’s okay.” While Eusebio remains in Mexico, the family said their fight now turns to securing a visa for him in order to return home as well.
Their fight also now turns to healing from the trauma of a senseless deportation that made national headlines. Mendoza-Sanchez had no criminal record. She’d been working and living here for decades. She has U.S. citizen children. Immigration officials refused to back off her deportation anyway. “When I left the airport,” she recalled, “I’m glad that I didn’t turn around when I said goodbye to my kids. I think if I had turned around and seen that much pain, I wouldn’t have been able to leave.”
“Now that she was back,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported, “her eldest child, Viannney, summed up the 16-month separation from the family’s point of view. ‘This was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten,’ she said. ‘I don’t need anything else.’”