“Invisible” – Struggles of US educated students in Mexico | By Daniel Won

With 2016 presidential election just around the corner, the immigration debate has resurfaced between the two candidates, most notably:

  • Hillary Clinton: Immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship
  • Donald Trump: Building a wall along the border and deportation

However, while much of the debate focuses on issues of the immigrants already in the US, repatriated immigrants, especially to Mexico, usually are not part of the main discussion.

Research presented at UC-Mexico Bi-National Symposium, “The Student We Share/Los Estudiantes Que Compartimos” held in Mexico City on September 12-13, 2016, estimated that there are over 400,000 US born k-9 students in Mexico, not including thousands who failed to enroll. Moreover, there are many Mexican nationals who grew up in the US until they were repatriated. These two groups of students share one thing: struggle to acclimate to a completely different education system with language and policy barriers.

First of all, it is estimated that no more than 5% of teachers in Mexico are English proficient and Mexcian schools simply do not have the capacity to offer English instructions. Therefore, the students who have been learning English in the US without much Spanish exposure, struggle to be part of the Mexican schools. Second, return migrant students struggle to attend schools due to their ineligibility. The schools in Mexico often require official documents from the US, as well as, official Mexican IDs which they do not have. Furthermore, the entrance exam to universities requires Spanish and Mexican history, and many do not accept the US high school transcripts. Although the Mexican government has been trying to ease the requirements, there still are many regions and schools that have not changed their policies, and therefore a big number of students find themselves unable to attend schools.

Unfortunately, there is a huge discrepancy between awareness levels of the two nations:

  • In the US: Media and political debate focus on preventing immigrants from further entering into the states and dealing with already existing ones whether through assimilation or deportation
  • In Mexico: There is much more discussion about the return migrants and effort to aid them despite certain limits in implementation and teacher availability; articles on Telemundo, Univision, independent articles, etc.

Therefore, Bi-National Symposium in Mexico City called for a coherent policy between the US and Mexico, because current policies are incoherent if any. Many of these return migrant “invisible” students are also US citizens and both countries need to work together in order to ensure and support “invisible” students’ education.

Max Matus, a co-coordinator of the symposium said that “the lack of coherent policy and communication is resulting in a massive loss of human talent, a loss of the very young people who could serve as bridges between the two nations and throughout the hemisphere”. Certainly, this huge group of students can become great assets to both the US and Mexico, not only as talented individuals but also, as ones who can connect the two nations together.


“México nos está fallando”: El drama de los hijos de indocumentados que regresan. (2016, September 15). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.telemundo.com/noticias/2016/09/15/mexico-nos-esta-fallando-el-drama-de-los-hijos-de-indocumentados-que-regresan

2016 presidential candidates on immigration – Ballotpedia. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2016, from https://ballotpedia.org/2016_presidential_candidates_on_immigration

Blogger, C. (2016). There’s Already a Wall for U.S.-Mexico Students. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_california/2016/09/theres_already_a_wall_for_us-mexico_students.html

Ibarra, R. (2016). La lucha de estudiantes jóvenes deportados a México. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.laprensasonoma.com/14007-2/

King, A. (2016, September 16). Educational needs of ‘students we share’ go unmet. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/educational-needs-students-we-share-go-unmet

Linthicum, K. (2016, September 14). Nearly half a million U.S. citizens are enrolled in Mexican schools. Many of them are struggling. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-return-migration-schools-20160913-snap-story.html

University of California, Riverside. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://ucmexicoinitiative.ucr.edu/students-we-share/swsnewsadvisory.html

U. (2015, December 14). ¿Qué pasaría con hijos de indocumentados si hubiera deportaciones masivas? Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.univision.com/noticias/inmigracion-infantil/que-pasaria-con-hijos-de-indocumentados-si-hubiera-deportaciones-masivas


One thought on ““Invisible” – Struggles of US educated students in Mexico | By Daniel Won

  1. Tiffany says:

    Really interesting and overlooked topic, Daniel! I would be curious to know Mexico’s rationale for including history in their higher ed entrance exams. It’s very different and feels not egalitarian like American higher ed exams ~SAT/ACT


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