It has been less than two months since Maria Mendoza-Sanchez was granted reentry into the US following her deportation a year and a half ago — and tonight she will be seated in the audience as the president gives his State of the Union address. The guest of California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mendoza-Sanchez is one
It has been less than two months since Maria Mendoza-Sanchez was granted reentry into the US following her deportation a year and a half ago — and tonight she will be seated in the audience as the president gives his State of the Union address. The guest of California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mendoza-Sanchez is one of many partisan plus-one’s invited by Democrats, who will be in attendance to serve as a rebuttal to Trump’s immigration rhetoric.
“Maria is a beloved nurse, neighbor and friend in the East Bay. She is a living example of the incalculable contributions that immigrants make to our communities every single day,” Congresswoman Lee said in a statement released with the announcement.
Trump is expected to double down on calls for support for his border wall, and his claims that its construction is the most pressing national priorities. But Mendoza-Sanchez’s story, recently recounted in the San Francisco Chronicle, shows the other side of the immigration reform debate and highlights how harsher policies against immigrants can tear families and communities apart.
“In the past, [Trump] has used public appearances like this to demonize immigrants, spread misinformation and deceive the American people,” Lee wrote in an email to supporters today. “But we all know that real people — neighbors, friends and classmates — have suffered because of the actions of the Trump Administration. That’s why I will be bringing Oakland resident Maria Mendoza-Sanchez as my guest to the State of the Union tonight”.
As a teenager, Mendoza-Sanchez left her home in Mexico and hiked across the US border. She cleaned houses, sold fruit, and slept only a few hours each night, working her way through city college and into a nursing program to fulfil her dreams of becoming a nurse. Before she was deported in 2017 — the result of harsher penalties for undocumented immigrants issued by the Trump Administration — her dreams had come true. All that was missing was a visa, which had been struggling to get for roughly 15 years.
For two years before she was deported, Mendoza-Sanchez was a nurse in the oncology department at a public hospital in Northern California. But, she was ineligible to apply for a visa because of how she originally came into the US.
She spent more than a year away from her three daughters, the job she had worked so hard to get, and the community her family called home. Her husband is still separated from the family, and had to stay behind in Mexico. But Mendoza-Sanchez was one out of 65,000 who was lucky enough to be picked for a visa lottery. Her H-1B work visa, sponsored by her employer, Alameda Health Services, will give her the chance to return to nursing in the US for the next three years, with the potential for an additional three if granted an extension.
“I was thrilled that Maria was able to return home – but I haven’t forgotten the many families across the East Bay who remain in limbo,” Lee wrote. “I hope that Maria’s attendance at the State of the Union will highlight the urgency around comprehensive immigration reform. Every day that we delay is another day that families suffer needlessly. Rest assured that I will keep fighting for immigration policies that treat every person with dignity, respect and compassion”.
Along with Mendoza-Sanchez, ex-Trump National Golf Club employee Victorina Morales, an undocumented worker from Guatemala who was fired from the club after revealing her citizenship status in an interview with The New York Times, will also be in attendance. She was invited by Democratic New Jersey Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.