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Immigrant Family Celebrates Their First Holiday Without Fear Of Deportation

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This week, we've heard from people living through their first holiday season since a life-changing experience. We've met a mom of new triplets, a father who lost his son in the Parkland school shooting and a man who just got out of prison.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Now meet Oscar and Irma Sanchez.

OSCAR SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) I'm from Veracruz, Mexico.

IRMA SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) I'm from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

O SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) We live in Brownsville, Texas. This is where our kids were born and have grown up.

CHANG: Which means their four kids are all U.S. citizens. Oscar and Irma are not.

KELLY: After a run-in last year with the Border Patrol, they were served with deportation papers. Their fate was in the hands of an immigration judge.

O SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) Last Christmas was very difficult and sad also because we had that indecision hanging over us.

I SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) Because last year we had a court on the 21st - so it was hard for us to enjoy it because we were scared of what could happen.

KELLY: Now, what happens next is really rare, even for people like the Sanchezes those who do not have criminal records.

CHANG: An immigration judge granted them permanent residency in the U.S. In the court papers, the judge said the kids wouldn't have the same educational opportunities in Mexico. And he said they had been so successful in school so far.

I SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) The oldest, Haylee, will be 14. She's in band and won a chair in All-City. Allyson, who's 12, is in advanced classes, band and on the dance team. And Camila just turned 6, is in kinder and is doing well in school. And Isaac, the baby, is doing well, and he stays at home with me.

KELLY: Although Irma plans to stay home less now that she's not afraid to go out in public.

I SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) Knowing that we can be with the girls at school, other events - and if they have to travel or something, we can go with them in order to give them a better quality of life.

KELLY: And a better quality of holidays.

O SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) We never knew if we'd be together the following year because of our legal situation. But going forward, I think we'll have more secure Christmases now that we're able to be here, now that they won't separate us. You can say relaxing, peaceful.

CHANG: And fun.

O SANCHEZ: (Through interpreter) We're going to have a potluck with a little bit of everything - brisket, tamales, pasta salad, bunuelos, all of that.

CHANG: And while many people are checking the mail these days for presents, Oscar and Irma are eagerly waiting for packages containing two green cards.

(SOUNDBITE OF VINCE GUARALDI TRIO'S "O TANNENBAUM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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