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Crossing International Borders for a Better Education

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Crossing an international border can be a hassle. But some parents in Mexico do it every day in pursuit of a better education for their children.

San Antonio-based KENS 5 recently aired a story of a father who walks his two young children across the Mexico-Texas border daily so they can attend school in the U.S. The trek is worth it, he says.

“It’s ugly across the border,” José Luis Dominguez told the TV station. “Kids are being abducted. It’s better here [in the U.S.], safer, knowing that nothing will happen.”

Children like Dominguez’s can be found from Calexico, California, to El Paso, Texas, where there’s even a designated lane for the 800 to 1,400 students who cross the border from Ciudad Juárez to attend school, according to The New York Times. Many of the students are American citizens.

The 2012 article states that “although educational outcomes have greatly improved in Mexico, low high school graduation rates and high attrition rates in the northern industrial states of Baja California and Chihuahua ‘hinder development of a highly educated work force,’” according to a University of San Diego Trans-Border Institute study. This gives people a ”strong incentive” to cross the border, one scholar told the publication.

In a BuzzFeed video from earlier this year, a student at the University of California, Irvine, says she crossed the border into California from Tijuana, Mexico, for 10 years after her parents decided one day that their children should learn English. She and her siblings woke up at 3 a.m. each day and initially crossed the border by car, and later by walking across and traveling to school on a trolley and then a bus.

The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton wrote a story in 2013 about a Columbus, New Mexico school district, where educating children who lived across the border in Palomas, Mexico was a longstanding tradition — albeit, a controversial one.

“The tide of students washing over the border has drawn muted complaints from some local residents over the cost to U.S. taxpayers. But most accept the arrangement as a simple fact of life on the border, which feels like an artificial divide between communities laced together by bloodlines, marriage and commerce,” she reported.

Families who live in Mexico are able to secure an American education for their children either through charter schools or tuition programs, KENS 5 reports. According to BuzzFeed, this access is also sometimes attained through owning property in the U.S. or obtaining a student visa to attend a private school.

Though the exact numbers of students who do this are unknown, The New York Times article states, ”their presence reflects the daily complexities of border life — among them, economic and educational disparities between the United States and Mexico and families splintered by deportation and unemployment.”