American Children on the Other Side of the Border

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary This is the story of those American-born children of Mexican parents who were taken to Mexico once their parents were deported or left on their own. Contrary to the extremely limited viewpoint that once these people were deported the problem would be solved. The problem simply takes on a new dimension, but it is far from solved. The American-born children of Mexican parents, you see, have no identity in Mexico. Since they were born and partly raised in the United States, they are considered alien residents in Mexico. Since they have only American documentation in English, Mexican officials are less than enthusiastic about dealing with the American-born children. There are no mechanisms in place between the U.S. and Mexican governments on how to deal with the influx of those children of Mexican parents born and raised in the United States. And the problem is a very serious one for Mexico. Since 2005, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, more than 300,000 American-born children have been taken to Mexico.

Because these children were born and raised in the United States, they do not have a Mexican birth certificate and therefore no identity number. Without a Mexican identity number these kids cannot go to school, cannot get basic health care, cannot vote when they become adults, and cannot get Mexican passports to travel. They are American-born, and as such have no real way to fit into Mexican society and even find work. Those Mexican parents who try to get their American-born children Mexican nationality (by the fact their parents are Mexican nationals) meet all kinds of bureaucratic roadblocks. One of the first of these roadblocks is being able to go to a government office to be able to register their children. Many of these Mexican government offices are located in major towns and cities—miles away from communities where the parents of American-born children live. If they manage to get to a government office they must then contend with registering their children in not one but a number of government agencies. Not all of these agencies may be in the same place. A child born and raised in Mexico will be registered throughout the bureaucracy, but no such mechanism exists for the American-born children.

Further complicating this is the fact that like all bureaucracies they provide inconsistent information. The parents of American-born children easily get lost in the maze of paperwork, and they may be given the wrong advice by any official which will only make their problem worse. Frequently these parents are told to hire a lawyer, but many of these families went to the United States because they are poor. If they had trouble living in Mexico in the first place, they can ill-afford a lawyer. Like in the United States, lawyers are a major expense in Mexico. And what about the children themselves? They have now been forced into an alien environment where they may not even know the language. Assuming they overcome the language barrier, they have to relearn how to live in another country. The psychological impact from all this can be tremendous on children. Whatever those in the United States may say about the “illegals,” the children of these parents are still American citizens and they deserve a lot better treatment than they have received from the U.S. government thus far. By virtue of the fact they were born and raised in the United States, they deserve some help and protection. But sadly the United States has a long and bad history of not acknowledging let alone helping the American-born children of Mexican nationals. This unfortunate part of America’s racist past is still with us.

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