Utah family’s plea: give us a path to citizenship

Sep 5, 2017, 11:51 PM | Updated: Sep 7, 2017, 11:58 am
Sanchez family Credit: Kaye Sanchez...
Sanchez family Credit: Kaye Sanchez

UTAH – At a glance the Sanchezs look like many other Utah families: a father who waves goodbye when he heads off to work, two children who dance around the living room and shout about their favorite “pretty” rocks, and a mother who wipes little tears and helps to keep the rest of the bunch sane. But underneath the popsicle smiles and family dinners, the Mario and Kaye Sanchez are trying to work through a terrifying possibility: in less than two years Mario will lose his work permit and the family may be forced to split up.

Coming to the U.S.

Sanchez is not Mario’s real last name. He asked to go by an alias to protect family already in danger of deportation. Most of his siblings are in the U.S., and all of them crossed illegally while searching for a better life.

“Some people think, ‘You spent a thousand and two-hundred dollars to come across the border, why didn’t you spend it on a visa?’ It’s not that simple. If it was that easy everyone would do it.” Mario Sanchez said, “In Mexico it’s almost impossible coming from poverty to meet the requirements. You have to have money in the bank and properties under your name. In many cases you still don’t get the visa, and money is gone. In some ways crossing the border is easier than getting a visa.”

Mario crossed when he was 14. He paid a smuggler and set out with a group of twelve on foot, taking only what he could carry.

“We had enough food, but we ran out of water,” Mario said. “We had to drink the water that farmers have for cows. Some of the water was a little bit green but you get so thirsty and you are desperate that you really don’t mind. Just have enough to keep going.”

After two days of trudging, Mario squished into the back of a small truck, trusting that the smuggler would bring them the last few miles over the border.

“I didn’t know him, “Mario said. “My concern was is he going to take us to the middle of nowhere and go somewhere else?”

In 2014, a United Nations report revealed more than six thousand immigrants have died while trying to cross the U.S/Mexico border since 2000. Mario and his family knew the risks, but they also knew success would mean a chance for better education, better jobs, and a better life.

“We didn’t break a law just because we wanted to break a law. We broke a law because we wanted to provide and support our families with things we could not get in our country because of the economy and the situation.” Mario said.

He went back to Mexico just once, to see his dying father, then crossed the border illegally for the second time.

Marriage and Citizenship

In 2008 Sanchez met Kaye, a U.S. citizen who was born and raised here in Utah. She knew Sanchez was an illegal immigrant and she knew that he broke a law to get here, but it didn’t stop her from falling in love. Kaye said she thought their marriage and help from immigration attorneys would bring citizenship in a few years.

“We saved twelve thousand dollars. Do you have any idea how hard that is as a newly married couple? We saved so much then went in and they said, ‘Sorry your situation doesn’t work. We can’t work with you,’” Kaye said. “I cried. I cried because we worked so hard and couldn’t do anything.”

U.S. law brands repeat offenders like Mario Sanchez as permanently inadmissible. Tim Wheelwright, immigration lawyer with Durham Jones and Pinegar, said people who have crossed illegally more than once have to return to Mexico for ten years before they have another shot at a green card. Even then, they don’t always get it.

“These are complicated legal issues in many cases. People have this notion that immigration is just about filling out a set of forms and filing with the government,” Wheelwright said. “The thing I run into most is people saying if you come here illegally it’s easy. Or they get special treatment. That’s just not the way it works. People who enter here illegally have an extremely difficult time legalizing their status.”

He added that waiting for a visa and crossing legally in the first place, doesn’t always work either.

“The reality is that in many cases there’s not a line to go wait in. Even if there is, what if it’s 20 or 30 years long?” Wheelwright said. “That’s the same as there being no line in many people’s mind.”


Sanchez was able to use the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) to postpone deportation while he went to college, and then started his career. Yesterday, President Donald Trump ended that program, leaving the Sanchez family with the most difficult decision they’ve ever faced.

“I don’t know what we’ll do. [Mario] doesn’t want our kids to go to Mexico.” Kaye said, frustration showing on her face. “That’s the whole reason he came here, to give his kids a better life. But I don’t want our family to be split.”

She’s heard rumors of a border town with relatively safe neighborhoods where the family could visit Mario during the day. That, along with splitting up between countries, or going into hiding, are the options the Sanchezs are sorting through, preparing for the day when Mario’s work permit expires.

“We don’t really have a decision. We are just hoping it doesn’t happen.” Kaye said.

Meanwhile, leaders and organizations across Utah have expressed outrage the President ended DACA, calling it a political decision that is morally wrong. While others, like Representatives Mia Love and Chris Stewart, have urged Utahns to trust that Congress will find a new way to protect the more than 13,000 Utahns eligible for DACA protection.

“Congress should have taken the lead in crafting a solution to this issue. No one person should unilaterally determine the fate of hundreds of thousands of others.” Love wrote in a press release, yesterday.

Presidential, or Congressional, Kaye said her family just hopes someone on the federal level will step in and give them a chance.

“Even Trump said, ‘I have a big heart’” Kaye said. “This is my ultimate hope: Trump will create a path to citizenship.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Politics + Government

Utah 2022 legislative session...
Lindsay Aerts

Count My Vote threatens ballot initiative to protect signature path to primary ballot if new bill passes

SALT LAKE CITY — A new war is brewing over signature gathering.  The citizens initiative group that ushered in Utah’s decade-old compromise creating a dual path for candidates to get on the primary election ballot — which includes signature gathering, the caucus convention system or both — is threatening to launch a statewide ballot initiative […]
1 day ago
george santos is pictured amongst other lawmakers, he and romney have been exchanging harsh words...
Samantha Herrera

GOP on GOP: Romney scolds Santos, ‘You don’t belong here’

Santos' presence at the center aisle to see and be seen with the arrivals was met with a stern rebuke from a fellow Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney.
1 day ago
utah capitol pictured, a new bill about teacher salary has been filed...
Lindsay Aerts

Bill introduced to keep teacher salary increases on pace with inflation

A companion to the school choice bill that was recently made into law seeks to allow teacher salary increases to be adjusted to keep up with inflation.
1 day ago
brad wilson is pictured speaking...
Kate Davis

House Speaker Wilson expresses disappointment in Biden’s State of the Union Address

House Speaker Brad Wilson said the tone of President Joe Biden's State of the Union was a reflection of the state of lawmaking in Washington.
1 day ago
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address duri...
Adam Small, Randall Jepsen

Utah delegation’s reaction to Biden’s State of the Union Address

Utah leaders found a little to like about President Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday.
1 day ago
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover debris from a high-altitude surveil...
Katie Bo Lillis, Jeremy Herb, Josh Campbell, Zachary Cohen, Kylie Atwood and Natasha Bertrand, CNN

US intel source: balloon part of broader Chinese military surveillance

The Chinese spy balloon, that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina over the weekend, was part of a Chinese military surveillance program, according to American officials.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

This article about skijoring is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Participate in Skijoring the Bear on February 20th, 2023.  What is skijoring? Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and […]
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Utah family’s plea: give us a path to citizenship