1. News & Issues
Nadra Kareem Nittle

School Districts to Crack Down on Mexican Students Who Cross Border for Education

By August 29, 2010

Follow me on:

Just when it looked like the immigration debate couldn't get more controversial, a new scandal has surfaced. U.S. school districts along the California-Mexican border are hiring officials to follow students home to make sure the youths live in America. District staffers are also checking the papers of pupils to determine residency.

While school districts such as the Unified School District of Calexico and the Mountain Empire School District reportedly support the move, other districts balk at hiring employees to investigate the residency status of students. San Diego Unified is one such district, as is Sweetwater Unified.

"Our mission is to educate, not to become immigration agents," Lillian Leopold of Sweetwater Unified told Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión.

The Calexico district, for instance, has reportedly hired staffers to photograph students crossing the border and the papers students show to prove residency. The district began taking such drastic measures five years ago at the request of parents, according to La Opinión. Then, Calexico Unified expelled 300 students found to be Mexican nationals.

The conundrum here is that federal law bars schools from questioning students about immigration status, but California law requires districts to collect student addresses. So, how are Mexican students able to enroll in American schools? Many of the children are related to people who live on the American side of the border and use the address of family members as proof that they live within the confines of a district. That's why the Calexico district has hired people to literally follow students home, as a child may have provided a legitimate address of a family member with whom they spend time occasionally while actually residing fulltime in Mexico.

Such scenarios aren't just taking place in California but in Arizona and Nevada, too. School districts throughout the Southwest pay a heavy price when it's discovered that large numbers of their students aren't, in fact, U.S. nationals. The Arizona Department of Education forced the Ajo Unified School District to return $1.2 million after officials determined that the funds were used to educate about 100 students from Mexico. Because education funding is directly linked to student enrollment, districts risk losing millions by educating children who cross the border to receive an education. So, what's the solution?

I'll be honest and say I'm not exactly sure. Do I think that school districts on the border should be punished for unknowingly educating Mexican nationals? No. And the thought of school officials following children home to snap their photographs and check their papers is distressing. Being tracked like animals probably terrifies these children, and why should these kids be traumatized over decisions their caregivers made to give them an education?

Before anyone proceeds to bash the Mexican parents in question, I want to point out that American parents use similar tactics all the time to get their children into better school districts. Parents in cities, for instance, use the addresses of family members in the suburbs to enroll children in better, wealthier school districts. Why? Because they want the best for their children. The Mexican parents are no different. What this trend indicates then is that access to quality education should be a universal right, no matter one's race, class or nationality.


August 30, 2010 at 3:18 pm
(1) CESchmid says:


I read your “About Race” news faithfully. I respect your balanced and fair presentation of issues related to people of color in the US. Your article on school districts tracking down and forcing the dismissal of illegal Mexican students left out an important variable. You compared Mexican parents sending their children across the border to US schools as the same as US parents sending their children to schools outside their school districts. It has similarities but there is one big difference. US parents are paying Federal and State taxes to support the schools. If they are sending their children to schools outside their district, they may not be paying resident school taxes BUT they are paying taxes. I doubt that the Mexican parents are supporting the US school system in any capacity. This raises resentment as this is one of the bigget contentions about illegal aliens…, that they are taking services that they are not supporting. Thank you. I hope you continue your role with “About Race Relations” for a long time.

August 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm
(2) Nadra says:

Thanks for your compliments and for respectfully pointing out the discrepancy between Mexican and American parents. Your input is much appreciated.

August 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm
(3) Richard says:

We have much the same process here to make sure students who reside in Chicago aren’t attending suburban schools.

September 1, 2010 at 8:56 am
(4) Larry says:

Nadra, those two comments are valid points. In Spring Texas and perhaps in Texas they surcharge you heavily if your child attends a different school district from your residence. It is like enjoying and benefitting from other people’s resources/waelth which they do not deserve and also keep in mind that school districts standard/quality of training and learning varies from each other based on income and demography.

Your writeups on race relations have been highly commendable by a whole lot of people and I am always very proud of your intellect. I cannot waite to read a book authored by you especially on race relations.
Please keep the brilliancy up with quality of information disemination especially as it affects immigrants within the American populace setup.

September 6, 2010 at 1:47 pm
(5) Shelley says:

Hi, Nadra!

While the Parents of the Kids who get an
Education in the U.S. might not be paying taxes,
the Kids’ Care Providers most certainly ARE!
Thank you SO MUCH for your Newsletter; the
more I learn, the more Empowered I become to
HELP ALL Children get a GREAT Education!


September 7, 2010 at 7:44 am
(6) Clay Boggess says:

The states have a right to crack down on school districts because there is no money coming in from the Mexican nationals to pay for their students to get an education. This money has to come from somewhere. If you come legally and are willing to obey the laws and pay taxes then more power to you.

September 12, 2010 at 1:33 am
(7) allan says:

May I say how impressed I am by the comments left on this post. I am an american citizen of Hispanic heritage. I was born and raised here, but sometimes I am treated like a visitor in my own country. I love the intellect of the comments, and how they focused on the issue, and not the race of the students using the system without paying taxes. If all of the debates out there could be held with this level of respect and decency we would get a lot further with this issue.

Thank you Nadra, and thank you readers. I am new to this post/blog sorry not sure what to call it. I stumbled upon it by accident lol, but i’m sure glad I did.

May 3, 2012 at 11:20 am
(8) George Willings says:

I agree that the right to a decent education should be universal. Now with that said, do so within your OWN country. Why should my tax dollars and everyone else’s go to provide an education for someone that does not reside in this country????? If your home country does not provide a decent education then why not move, especially seeing how they are so close to the border to begin with. But instead of doing things the right way, why not do them the illegal way. Just this morning I found a person with BAJA CALIFORNIA plates dropping of 3 children at the same school where I was dropping off my daughters. I live in South Bay area of San Diego and was dropping my daughters off at Emory Elementary. I did put my discovery to video and do plan on turning this video over to the proper officials. If these Mexican Nationals want their kids to go to American schools, then move to America the legal way, it is not too difficult, but is more difficult than just crossing the border.

October 25, 2013 at 4:41 pm
(9) Reyna says:

Mr. George Willings:

You are an uneducated moron. Take your video to whomever you wish, there is nothing they can legally do to sanction that family. More importantly, what kind of parent or human being would purposely do such a thing that could possible get a CHILD kicked out of school or worse…a parent incarcerated or deported?
Do you happen to know how difficult it is now for Mexicans to simply “cross illegally”? It is nearly impossible. People are dying in an effort to be reunited with their own families. They’re not stealing your kids’ books, teachers, houses or cars… they’re merely TAKING THEIR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL AND ATTEMPTING TO MAKE A LIVING AT VERY LOW WAGES.
In addition, how does a person’s car/license plates affect your or your child’s education? More than likely, that BAJA CALIFORNIA car is driven by someone who works in the US LEGALLY, yet cannot afford to live in San Diego.
If you’re in fact, not an idiotic imbecile, take the time to research immigration law and you WILL find that to become a permanent resident and/or a citizen takes many years and is extremely expensive.
So, before you being to judge people’s life, take the time to educate yourself because sir, when you assume: you make an ASS of U and ME.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>
  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. Race Relations

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.