After decades of hard work and sacrifice, Maria Mendoza-Sanchez had built a great life in the United States. The Mexico-born nurse had a job she loved treating cancer patients at a public hospital. She was married, with four children.
But neither Mendoza-Sanchez nor her husband were U.S. citizens. Having entered the United States illegally over 20 years ago, the couple worked hard — he, as a truck driver, she, selling fruit and cleaning houses until was was able to earn her nursing degree.
As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the couple had been trying to get legal status since 2002, and were ordered to be deported in 2012. They were ultimately allowed to stay under Obama administration rules because they were both employed, paid taxes and had been law-abiding residents.
Their up-by-the-bootstraps American dream story took a sharp turn for the worse after Donald Trump became president in January 2017. The president signed an executive order that led to Mendoza-Sanchez and her husband being deported back Mexico.
In August 2017, Mendoza-Sanchez, her husband Eusebio Sanchez, and their youngest son, who was 12 at the time, were deported, leaving their three other children — and everything they’d worked for — behind.
Before she left, Mendoza-Sanchez tried appealing to the president’s humanity, but to no avail: “One of the things I admire about him is that he is a loving father. He loves his kids very much and his grandchildren too,” said she said, adding “I just want him to realize how would he feel if all of a sudden something would happen to Ivanka.”
After their deportation, Mendoza-Sanchez pursued every avenue possible to return and be reunited with her family. In a bit of a long shot move, she entered the visa lottery, (another program President Trump said he’d like to eliminate) and her name was selected — a spectacular piece of good luck.
Even then however, she was told she wasn’t eligible for the visa because she had initially entered the U.S. illegally. She appealed under a statute than allowed for waivers for skilled workers, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied that appeal.
Mendoza-Sanchez then took her file the U.S. State Department’s consular office in Mexico City, where her appeal was granted (with Immigration Services relenting), giving her a three-year skilled worker (H1-B) visa, which can be extended.
On Saturday, having been separated from her family for over a year, Mendoza-Sanchez finally returned to the U.S. to be reunited with her family and get back to the job she considered “a privilege.”
Her case is prime example of not only the harshness of Trump’s policies, but also the lack of any kind of logical underpinning for his executive order.
For one thing, the nursing industry is facing a chronic shortage:
According to The American Nurses Association (ANA) (2018), there will be more registered nurse jobs available through 2022 than any other profession in the United States. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018) projects 1.1 million additional nurses are needed to avoid a further shortage. Employment opportunities for nurses are projected to grow at a faster rate (15%) than all other occupations from 2016 through 2026 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018).
And even if exceptions were eventually carved out skilled labor, the fact is, there are labor shortages all around in the United States, not just in categories that would merit an H1-B visa.
It took two lightning strikes of good luck to (somewhat) right Mendoza-Sanchez’s one stroke of bad luck (President Trump): She had to win the lottery, and win her second appeal in order to get an H1-B visa. But her family is still without their father, Eusebio Sanchez, who is not eligible to join his his wife and four children in the United States.
Given the Trump administration’s staunch anti-migrant polices — the president has repeatedly insulted migrants, calling them “rapists,” “animals” and “diseased” — it’s unclear if or how Sanchez will be able to return to the home and family he spent over two decades building in the U.S.