At the age of eight in 1987, Puebla, Mexico resident Lamberto Pedraza Sanchez saw his father abandon him to live in the United States.
Two years later, Sanchez's mother joined her husband and left the boy with an aunt, who ordered him to quit school in the sixth grade, refused to allow him to play soccer and forced him to work on a farm.
Without government permission, his parents brought him into the U.S. when he turned 14 years old and he still would be working Orange County menial jobs undetected by immigration officers if not for a family dispute.
He allegedly caught his girlfriend (and mother of his three kids) cheating on him in 2011, assaulted her in a moment of outrage and won a domestic violence conviction that ended with jail time and a 2013 deportation to Mexico.
Having been abandoned by his own parents at an early age, Sanchez refused to stay away from his own kids and, believing his 20-year residence here meant he didn't need a visa, returned to California, where fate handed him another ugly twist.
Almost an innocent homicide victim in a shooting, he found himself with responding police officers, who put him in the Orange County Jail and then turned him over to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency officers, who filed 2013 criminal charges for him being an "illegal alien found in the United States following deportation."
Federal law enforcement officials wanted Sanchez to serve a 57-month prison sentence and then face a second deportation.
But Sanchez's defense lawyer argued a fair punishment could be no longer than 27 months.
The defendant weighed in, urging U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna to be lenient for the sake of his kids.
"I want to say I am sorry because I am very remorseful for having committed the crime of re-entry to this country," wrote Sanchez, who earned praise from his past Orange County employers as a hard worker and kind man. "It was never my intention to commit this crime, but desperation and distraught as a result of hearing my children cry for me not being here with them . . . For this reason, I ask you please and beg you to understand that as a father I only wanted to be with my children whom I love most in this life."
Inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana this month, Selna determined the appropriate punishment is a 37-month trip to prison.
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The judge also recommended the defendant be housed in a Southern California facility so his children can easily visit.
When Sanchez completes his prison term, he'll be deported back to Mexico.