OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Maria and Eusebio Sanchez are taking the last flight of the night from San Francisco International Airport to Mexico City. They cannot return for at least a decade. A 15-year fight for their American dream has ended with deportation.
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"I pay taxes, I work, I'm not a burden for the community... I'm raising good citizens. Nothing matters," said Maria Sanchez from her Oakland home. She's lived in the Bay Area for 20 years. Sanchez applied for a green card in 2002 after following her husband to the United States from Mexico.
"In the meantime, I still went to school and better myself and work, and work, and work, pay for my education, pay for my children's education," she says explaining how during all of the consulting with immigration attorneys she continued to live life and better her family.
From housekeeping to selling fruit along roadways, to becoming an oncology nurse Maria worked alongside her husband Eusbio who's a long haul truck driver.
Maria's Highland Hospital coworkers rallied for her Monday. Senator Dianne Feinstein also tried to intervene.
Three of the couple's four children are citizens. The oldest is protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
"If you don't know anything about the law, just like set that all aside like our family's separating," said Melin Sanchez, who is 21 years old.
As immigration attorney Manuel Ugarte explains there is no path for people who enter the country illegally. Trying to obtain green cards may have actually hurt the Sanchez's.
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"Had they never sought to obtain a formal benefit we wouldn't have known the family existed and ICE would likely not know about their whereabouts," said Ugarte.
The Sanchez's received deportation notice in 2012, but were granted stays under the previous administration. Now the Department of Homeland Security tells them it's time for them to leave the country.
"What she said is if they approve a stay for me they sending the wrong message to the rest of the community," said Maria.
The message from experts, consult an attorney before addressing your immigration status. Ugarte says "The risk is if you are denied it is likely that you will be facing removal proceedings and fighting against a deportation order."
The three oldest Sanchez children will stay in Oakland. Melin graduates from UC Santa Cruz next year.
"There are moments we're going to miss together like birthdays and my graduation. Like what kind of life is that? To not be together and I want everyone to know that this is real and we're in pain," said Melin.
The couple's 12-year-old son will move to Mexico with them.
Maria had this message to share, "To my kids I love them very much. I'm not going to be here physically, but I'm going to be here somehow."
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Family separated as Oakland couple deported from United States