American children forced to go to schools in Baja California

Children who's parents have been deported face a new reality in Mexico

American children forced to go to schools in Baja California

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About 3,832 children who are American residents find themselves enrolled in a new school year, but this time in one of the schools in Baja California, by force and not by choice, the deportation processes made them come back, they are children who were born in the United States, but with parents who have repatriated back to Mexico.

Angel is barely 7 years old, he was born in California. His Spanish is limited despite having Mexican parents at home, in school what was mainly spoken is English. A couple of months ago, the child with the golden hair had to move to Tijuana, his parents had been living in San Diego illegally.

Two weeks ago he joined a new school “Forjadores de la Nacion”, located on the east side of Tijuana, he will be in the afternoon schedule. His class is 1st grade, group C, in this elementary school located in “Cañadas del Refugio” one of the more marginalized zones, full of halfway houses.

Angel knows that his new school is a far cry from the elementary school he used to go to. With a frown and his head low, he says he used to ride the little bus, play on green grass and best of all everyone spoke English.

“They told me that everyone speaks Spanish here and that I have to speak it too, but I don't really understand it that well”, he says with a shy voice while he shows us a page with the numbers 1 through 10 “it's just, I used to go to school on the other side”.

The little American resident now goes to a school with pale walls, cement blocks that simulate walls and tin ceilings, located at the top of a hill; the bright side is that the teachers make a great effort to help the children who were born in the United States, feel welcome and help them fit in their new life in Mexico.

The recess bell rings and Angel rushes to one of the benches in the school cafeteria to eat some strawberries his parents set in his lunch, but gets a little more excited when he hears the ice cream man's bell.

He gleefully extends a dollar bill, but the ice cream man explains that his ice cream is only $5 pesos. The child scratches his head and turns around trying to get an explanation. He looks at me and asks: “can I afford it with one dollar?” Angel still doesn't understand a lot about Mexico.

Victims of Mockery

The children who were born in the United States but have Mexican parents who were deported, are identified by several factors: they hardly speak Spanish, they do not know Mexican history or culture, and they always dream about going back to their native land.

The teacher Yara Amparo Lopez, State Coordinator for the Immigrant Education Program, revealed that they are victims of constant mockery and have several social interaction issues, because of the academic formation they received in the United States.

“You cannot measure the impact they suffer having lived in the United States, it's the same if we had been sent to China, we would feel completely out of place as well, and it's because the education systems are so different in each country”.

She explains that they will start working with the University of Baja California, specifically with the psychology departments to gain a better understanding of the issues that affect children who have immigrant parents.

In Tijuana there are 2,014 children who are enrolled to start a new school year; 936 in Mexicali, 478 in Ensenada, 245 in Rosarito, and 159 in Tecate, adding up to a total of 3,832 children, forced to study in a Mexican school.

Laura.Sanchez@sandiegored.com

Daniel.Aguilar@sandiegored.com

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