SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Clutching an armful of roses and flanked by her four kids, Maria Mendoza-Sanchez stepped foot back on American soil Saturday night for the first time since her deportation in August 2017.
“This is a really dream that I never expected was gonna come true,” Mendoza-Sanchez said during a news conference held after her flight touched down at San Francisco International.
Mendoza-Sanchez was selected in a H-1B visa lottery and got a waiver to come back to the United States. Her visa was sponsored by Highland Hospital in Oakland, where she worked as an oncology nurse. She says her co-workers brought her strength from afar in the darkest hours.
“There were many nights I couldn’t sleep…there were many days I was ready to give up and when that happened, it just happened that one of them would reach out to me out of nowhere and never let me down,” she said.
Mendoza-Sanchez’s eldest daughter, 24-year-old Vianney, herself a DACA recipient, stepped in to care for her other children.
“It was difficult to take on that motherly role, because at the same time I’m their kid, too and I lost my parents too,” Vianney said.
Because of her DACA status, Vianney was never able to visit her parents in Mexico.
Maria and her husband missed many moments, including Melin’s graduation from college with a degree in human biology.
“All of my friends were celebrating with their families and I couldn’t see my parents in the stands,” Melin said.
While her husband is still in Mexico, Maria is home for the holidays and at least the next three years.
“I don’t know what I’m going to be doing but I know that I’m going to be with them and At least for me, the best Christmas ever,” she said.
Others were also overjoyed by her return.
Senator Dianne Feinstein said she was pleased Mendoza-Sanchez was granted the visa, given the nurse’s contributions to her community.
Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted: “Welcome back to Oakland, Maria. Your community awaits you with open arms!”
Oakland congresswoman Barbara Lee said in a statement: “I am thrilled that Maria Mendoza-Sanchez has finally been reunited with her family. Maria’s unjust deportation was a loss for her family, loved ones and our entire East Bay community. I couldn’t be happier that Maria has been able to return home in time for the holidays.”
Mendoza-Sanchez and her husband, Eusebio, entered the country illegally over two decades ago. Over the 23 years since, they had married, established careers and raised four children in Oakland.
The couple said they had tried on several occasions to become documented immigrants, but their efforts failed.