The family is worried about what will happen now that Sanchez has been repatriated to Mexico. The original plan was to have her mother move in to her Anaheim apartment to live with her and her daughter.
"We put up pictures of when we were little, because we wanted her to come out to her babies that she had left, and now she's not going to use it," said Rosie Sanchez's daughter Rosie as she showed the room in her Anaheim apartment that her mother was supposed to come home to. She was hoping to use the time to reconnect with her mother. "First they take her away for 23 years, and now they're just dropping her off in Mexico. It's so unfair."
Rosie Sanchez, 49, a mother of four, was released from prison Thursday. She was convicted of a 1985 deadly arson fire. Sanchez worked in the downtown L.A. Garment District. She was convicted of setting fire to a competitor's shop that resulted in the death of a man who was sleeping inside. She has always maintained her innocence.
She was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. She was paroled with the help of a team of USC law students.
During a Thursday morning news conference, the family asked Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to pardon her and wipe her conviction of her record, hoping that would prevent her deportation.
"We just came back from a press conference asking for help, and they didn't give us a chance to fight," said Rosie's daughter.
Rosie was 3 when her mother went to prison. She's now 27. She thought her mother was in the country legally before her arrest, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say she was in the country illegally and subject to deportation.
"We took her into custody, processed her and we did an extensive background check," said ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice. "As it turns out, despite reports to the contrary, Ms. Sanchez apparently never had legal status in the United States. She's in the United States illegally."
Thursday afternoon, Sanchez's daughter Rosie received a call from her mother.
"She's happy. She's grateful that she's out, she's free. But we go back to just visiting," said Rosie. "We're taking off today to go see her. Tomorrow's her birthday. Trying to celebrate it."
The USC law school team that helped her parole said the news was unfortunate and that they intend to pursue a pardon from Gov. Schwarzenegger based on factual innocence.
In the meantime, Rosie Sanchez's daughter said she and the family planned to go to the Mexican border Thursday night to meet with her mother. They want to be able to celebrate her birthday. Her mother turns 49 on Friday.
Rosie Sanchez only knows one person in Mexico, an aunt who lives in Calexico.