Maria Mendoza-Sanchez clutches a pillow in her Oakland home on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, hours before she, her husband and their son left the U.S. for Mexico after federal immigration authorities denied their request for a reprieve. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

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Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, a Highland Hospital nurse in Oakland, and her husband this week ended their fight to remain in the U.S. after federal immigration authorities denied a last-ditch plea to stay.

Maria, her husband Eusebio Sanchez, and their 12-year-old son, Jesus, boarded a flight at San Francisco International Airport for Mexico City less than an hour before a federal deportation order expired late Wednesday for the couple — leaving behind their three daughters, two of them adults and one a teenager.

Maria Mendoza-Sanchez sits on a couch in her Oakland home on Aug. 16, 2017, hours before she, her husband and son leave Oakland for Mexico City. Her daughter, Melin Sanchez, 21, cries as she watches her mother with concern. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Sanchez spent her last day in the U.S. doing somewhat routine things: She took her daughter, Elizabeth, 16, to her first day of school as a sophomore and she went to the bank.

But she did some out-of-the-ordinary things, too: She granted power of attorney to her eldest daughter, Vianney, 23. She packed her belongings. And she put her nursing uniforms into a storage box.

“I’m sorry I won’t be there to serve them anymore,” she said of her patients in the oncology and cardiology unit of Highland Hospital, Alameda County’s trauma center. “But one day I will be back, that’s for sure.”

Eusebio Sanchez supports his wife, Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, in their Oakland home on Aug. 16, 2017, hours before they leave for Mexico City after federal immigration authorities denied their request for a reprieve. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

The couple came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago, settling in Oakland in 1994. Maria graduated from Holy Names University with a nursing degree while raising their children. Eusebio worked in construction and eventually became a truck driver.

The couple have no criminal records, and have been undocumented during their time in the U.S. Vianney is protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, while their three younger kids are U.S. citizens.

“Fighting an immigration case when you are a Mexican is really three times as difficult as it is other communities,” Maria said as she tried to hold back tears. “It doesn’t matter how hard you work. It doesn’t matter what you do.”

Melin Sanchez, 21, cries as she hugs a neighbor who lives across the street. People drop by the Oakland home on Aug. 16, 2017, hours before Melin’s mother and father leave for Mexico City after federal immigration authorities rejected their last-ditch appeal to stay. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Under the Obama administration, the couple received two stays, along with legal work visas, to remain in the U.S. But when they applied for another stay in May 2017, federal immigration officials limited it to 90 days — after which they would be deported.

The family was hoping for a reprieve with the help of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. But on Tuesday afternoon, Feinstein called to tell them that federal immigration agents had denied their request for another stay, the senator’s office said.

“All possible avenues to delay their departure have been denied by the Trump administration in what I believe is an act utterly devoid of humanity,” Feinstein said in a statement. “This is a travesty, plain and simple, and evidence that Donald Trump’s immigration ‎policy is nothing more than a hateful deportation program targeting law-abiding families. It’s shameful and stands against the very ideals upon which this country was founded.”

Melin Sanchez, right, is comforted by a friend as they listen to Sanchez’s mother, Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, talk to the press hours before she, her husband and their son leave for Mexico City on Aug. 16, 2017. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

In a statement to KQED from  Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Western Region, the agency confirmed the denial. But ICE added that it gave the couple enough time “to get their personal affairs in order and make preparations for their departure.”

Sanchez said she and her husband prepared their three daughters for life without them in the U.S.: Vianney, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, will be the legal guardian of Elizabeth as she finishes high school. Their middle daughter, Melin, 21, will stay to finish her last year at UC Santa Cruz.

In Maria’s last hours before flying to Mexico City, Elizabeth came home from her first day of school. She sat on the couch next to her mom and rested her head on her mom’s shoulder.

The two discussed her first day of school — knowing moments like these were coming to an end.

Maria said she also had a conversation with her kids that a parent doesn’t ever think they’ll have.

“Yes, indeed, you separate from your parents but you don’t have to worry about rent, you don’t have to worry about food, and then you’ll be able to finish school,” she recalled telling her daughters.

Luggage for Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, her husband Eusebio, and their 12-year-old son, Jesus, stacked near the door of their Oakland home on Aug. 16, 2017. They left for Mexico City late Wednesday after living in the U.S. for more than 20 years. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Though she is having to leave, Sanchez said what she’s taking with her to Mexico — her memories — no one can take away.

“Because it’s in my heart and it’s in my mind,” she said.

Photos of the Sanchez family and a sign about nursing decorate a shelf in their home in Oakland on Aug. 16, 2017. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
Forced Out: When Leaving the Country Means Leaving Your Kids 18 August,2017Alyssa Jeong Perry

  • Curious

    No need to leave your kids. Take them with you. None of you have a right to be here living off me.

    • Diane Llewellyn Grover

      Her three children are US citizens.

      • Curious


    • I’m not sure why a hardworking nurse and truck driver would be “living off of you”…

    • Catherine Doherty

      Doesn’t sound like they were living off anyone, she was a qualified nurse. Her children, except for the eldest, are American citizens. She wouldn’t have been able to work at Highland hospital without paying taxes, just like all their other employees. Also, her older children are college educated and the younger ones probably will be. These people are contributing members of the community and not the criminals that Trump says Mexico is sending us.

  • gbtmpgb

    How is this different from deportations under Obama. I didn’t see any articles then. I wonder why?

    • virgil

      There is no difference!!

      • TragicRealist

        The number of ICE arrests nationally of immigrants with no criminal history has more than doubled under Trump.

        • virgil

          1. You mean illegal immigrants; 2 By definition illegal immigrants have broken the law—that is why they are illegal immigrants. 3/ What do you mean with no crim history (other than the obvious)? Or has DJT just lowered the bar of what constitutes a crim history? I suppose that is a difference—DJY has a much lower standard than Obama did. 4. Last year the left was calling Obama the “deporter in chief”!!

        • Captain Obvious

          Why ICE would arrest immigrants? They deal with illegal aliens.

  • Captain Obvious

    I think she will find that Mexico is a much different place than the one she left. She should move to one of the major cities and apply her nursing talents. The money they saved in the US will go much further in Mexico than in Oakland. Anyone who thinks Mexico is a lawless poverty stricken place should use the internet to educate themselves.

    • Yeah. This situation is sad, but this family will be ok in the long run. Living here and starting a family without having legal status is risky, and it has finally caught up with them. An American trained oncology nurse shouldn’t have any trouble finding a good job in Mexico. I’m glad that they were able to make good use of their time here and that the kids are able to finish their education.

  • virgil

    Sure USA should want immigrants like her….just do it the legal way next time…it will save you and us a lot of time and money.

    • Austin Horstman

      If your real concern was time and money.. you wouldn’t deport them to begin with.

      • virgil

        If the law isn’t enforced it is no longer a law—perhaps that is your purpose. She knew what she was doing was illegal…..that is her problem not ours.Moreover is she wants to be a good “resident” as she claims why is she putting our system to the time /expense—she could have freely returned to her homeland.

  • rebecca

    This is reprehensible. The comments also. These parents contributed to society and did not live off others as one commentator stated.

    Furthermore, what about the rights of the children? American citizens no less. This despicable destruction of a family is ammoral and serves no purpose for the common good. It will however wreak untold detrimental consequences for the family and their community.

    Per the Declaration of Indepemdence:

    “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; …”

    Diane Feinstein said it all. Too bad her office has so little clout. Where are the big gun pro bono immigration attorneys and the ACLU? Reunite this family!

    • DFinMA

      How does contributing to society change the laws? If you enter the country w/o permission you are an illegal alien.

      Now, this brings up a good question which I have not heard much about. If you are born in the US you are a US citizen, even if your parents are not citizens. My curiosity says, what’s the point of this? This law creates this problem? Does anyone know what the intent of this law is?

      • a. jay

        The problem is that the 14th Amendment was never meant to give birthright citizenship and has been abused. Originally, the 14th was one of three amendments meant to protect former slaves. (The states used to bestow citizenship but after the Civil War, the US didn’t trust the South to do so.). The 14th excluded diplomats, foreigners, aliens, and Native Americans (citizens of their own tribal nations). Congress removed the restriction for the latter in 1924, but not the other groups. Diplomats with kids born here aren’t given US citizenship.
        Tourists, foreign students, and illegal aliens shouldn’t get any citizenship for having kids here, usually at our expense. For illegal aliens, this has led to the corrupt rip-off business to have “anchor babies” so they can collect welfare benefits for the new “US citizens.” Young girls as young as 12 are brought here by their families to do this. Some families have mother-daughter teams as it were. This pathetic anchor baby practice has been bankrupting states and counties, but politicians have looked the other way.There’s also the birth tourism business where foreign women come here on legal visas for the propose of giving birth. They then take the infants back to raise in their own countries but can send them back later to get education benefits and to vote.

        So these three Sanchez daughters shouldn’t be citizens at all. The taxpayers have had to pay probably for their hospital delivery, schooling, and so on. People misread the 14th by skipping over “and subject to the jurisdiction of.” That refers to total jurisdiction, not temporary geographic jurisdiction. Diplomats, foreign visitors & students, and illegal aliens are under the total jurisdiction of their own countries. If by chance any one of them were arrested for a serious felony charge, their countries would intervene on their citizens’ behalf, claiming jurisdiction over them.

        Revoke the citizenship of all anchor babies, if not those born to non-residents. At the very least, pressure Congress to re-clarify the 14th Amendment as not being a birthright citizenship loophole.

  • It is almost impossible to get a job as a nurse in California because of women like this who steal citizens’ jobs and create the requirement for them to speak Spanish (which I do as I’m Puerto Rican). Seriously, as a nurse (now doctor) I have friends who are on 5 year waiting lists to apply for jobs in California. The Golden State bends over backwards to accomodate citizens of every country but their own.

  • virgil

    How long is the CA Report gonna milk this story?