New Program Gives Undocumented Mexican Students a Chance to Visit Their Country of Birth, Many for the First Time

Lead Photo: Steve Pavey
Steve Pavey
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Over the course of 24 days, 31 DREAMers from community colleges and universities across California have been given the opportunity to explore their native Mexico – a place that some may have been too young to even remember leaving. The trip, which is made possible by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and advance parole (an immigration document issued that allows certain non-citizens to re-enter the U.S.), gives students an opportunity to learn about Mexico while also connecting with their relatives.

One surprising lesson for the students, who will return to the U.S. on January 11, came from Gretchen Kuhner, director of the Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración. She asked them what they needed before they could be enrolled in public school in the United States. Vaccines, birth certificate and proof of address, they replied.

“So they didn’t ask you for a signature and seal from the secretary of state that issued the documents? Or a birth certificate that’s been translated by an official translator?” Kuhner said. “Well, here the universities still ask for that and primary schools did until last June… and that’s the reason that many children and young people who have returned from the United States have been unable to continue their studies.”

The visit kicks off with the students each taking individual visits to their family members, but there are two weeks of lectures and presentations about Mexico’s politics, social movements, the education system, Chicano studies in Mexico, muralism, and indigenous studies.

“Today, we want to convey to DREAMers that in their native land there is a lot of richness and values, but it’s not perfect,” Jorge Ramos, director of Centro Tlahuica de Lenguas e Intercambio Cultural (CETLALIC), told El Diario. “And they can contribute to make it better.”

With support from California State University, Long Beach, Juntos Podemos, and Instituto de Mexicanos en el Exterior, two groups of students have visited Mexico since June. For now, the program is limited to only a few schools in California, but they’re hoping to eventually make this an option to people all over the United States.