Last Updated:November 25 @ 06:13 am

US-born kids of migrants lose rights in Mexico

By Adriana Gomez Licon

MALINALCO, Mexico (AP) - As a cold drizzle washed over this town of narrow cobblestone streets in the forested highlands of central Mexico, mothers waiting outside the colonial-era cultural center wrapped wool blankets around the infants snuggled in their arms. Other parents tightened plastic bags around folders filled with U.S. passports and birth certificates from California, Ohio and Texas.

One by one, the parents filed inside, sat down before a Mexican government worker and told stories of lives that had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border twice. First, they crossed illegally into the United States for work, found jobs, and had children. Then, they were caught and deported, or left on their own as the work dried up with the U.S. economic slump. Now they are back in Mexico with children who are American citizens by virtue of being born on U.S. soil.

Because of the byzantine rules of Mexican and U.S. bureaucracies, tens of thousands of those children without Mexican citizenship now find themselves without access to basic services in Mexico - unable to officially register in school or sign up for health care at public hospitals and clinics that give free check-ups and medicines.

At issue is a Mexican government requirement that any official document from another country be certified inside that country with a seal known as an "apostille," then be translated by a certified, and often expensive, translator in Mexico.

It's a growing problem in Mexico as hundreds of thousands return home because of the sluggish U.S. job market and a record number of deportations. Illegal migration of Mexicans to the U.S. is at its lowest level in decades, with more Mexicans now leaving the United States than entering it each year.

More than 300,000 U.S.-born children have been brought to Mexico since 2005, out of a total of 1.4 million people who moved back from the U.S. during that period, according to the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center.

The number of U.S.-citizen children living in Mexico with at least one Mexican parent reached 500,000 in 2011, according to one demographic study.

Many of the Mexican parents of U.S. children were not aware of Mexico's paperwork requirement before they came back, so now tens of thousands are struggling to get their children's documents to the United States to be certified, and then returned to Mexico to be officially translated.

They get little help from the Mexican government, but a lucky few get aid from groups like the Corner Project, a nonprofit organization for migrant families in Malinalco. It arranged for state government workers to travel to the town recently to meet with families and then send packages of documents to different U.S. offices. Returnees living in small towns without government offices otherwise have to make long journeys to deal with officials.

"The government doesn't care about what happens to the people who are coming back," said Maria del Rosario Leyva, who came back with her two U.S.-born children, a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, from Santa Ana, California, last year after their father was deported.

She and other returnees have gone to schools and to education offices seeking to enroll their children. Some were sent to Malinalco's records office, which suggested they hire a lawyer.

Rogelio Hernandez Sanchez is another parent who is back. He lost his job as a construction worker in Oakland, California, last year and decided to bring his family to Mexico in November. He was told that not only was he missing official seals on the birth certificates of his two U.S.-born children, but that the documents were no good because they were issued by a health department rather than a government records office, as is done in Mexico.

"They won't give me my kid's grades. I won't be able to take them to a doctor," Hernandez said.

Responding to questions from The Associated Press, Mexico's health officials said in a statement that they offer a temporary care plan for U.S.-born children, but families must certify the youngsters' documents within 90 days to continue receiving health care. An education department spokesman said each Mexican state, and sometimes individual school administrators, can temporarily waive requirements and let children into school despite the lack of official paperwork.

Many parents don't understand what administrators and clerks tell them. Official procedures are often confusing even for college-educated Mexicans. Misconceptions are widespread: Hernandez said he'd heard from other families that if he didn't get the children's documents stamped, U.S. officials could take the youngsters from him, even in Mexico.

"The mothers have come to us for help after multiple frustrations," said Ellen Calmus, director of the Corner Project. "I've literally had a series of mothers in tears coming to the office."

Her group arranged for two state clerks to help about a dozen families at the recent session in Malinalco, and both Leyva and Hernandez were able to send their children's birth certificates to get the official stamps in California. They were given a special permit to show schools that the paperwork is in progress.

Leyva's husband was among 46,000 people deported from the United States in the first half of 2011 who had U.S.-born children. He worked as a chef at a steakhouse in Santa Ana before he was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunken driving and was deported.

After nearly 17 years in the U.S. and with two small children, Leyva worried she would get caught, too, so she left their rented townhome in California. Her older daughter in her mid-20s stayed, but Leyva brought back her 19-year-old son. Both immigrated illegally as children.

A majority of migrants' American-born children stay in the U.S. with relatives, or are taken into state foster care after their parents are arrested for crimes. Demographers say only about 10 to 15 percent of the U.S.-born youngsters are taken to Mexico.

"These are children who are kind of stateless in both countries," said Hirokazu Yoshikawa, academic dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of "Immigrants Raising Citizens: Undocumented Parents and Their Young Children."

"Each generation is undocumented in one country," he said.

In Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said that the U.S. government worries about U.S.-born offspring of migrants. "Where are the children? What's going on with the children?" she said in an interview with The Arizona Republic newspaper.

The U.S.-born children who are brought back to Mexico have birth certificates and American passports, so they don't need anything else to prove they have citizen rights if they should go back to the U.S.

Leyva says her U.S.-citizen children will not stay in Mexico beyond childhood.

Her eyes moistened as she told of how they often ask when they will return to the United States.

"When they are old enough, they will leave," she said. "Their future is not here. Their children will have papers; the children of their children will also have papers. The problems will end."

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  1. Mort_fComment by Mort_f
    July 19, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    Do the Crime, Do the Time. Old, but still true. Every one of those parents knew that they were performing an illegal, criminal, act. Unfortunately the biggest recipient of the ‘Time’ will be their children. Much like our children will ‘do the Time’ of our criminal misuse of funds by the Federal government.

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    • cgretiredComment by cgretired
      July 19, 2012 @ 11:06 am

      And the biggest criminal act, or what should be a criminal act was making babies when they knew they couldn’t raise them. It’s unfortunate for the kids, that’s for sure. I would not be at all surprised if Mexico trys to deport the kids back here.

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  2. DudleyComment by Dudley
    July 19, 2012 @ 11:20 am

    We must stop the whole premise of anchor babies. We are the only country in the world that allows a woman to cross the border and have a child in our hospitals using our tax dollars. The child immediately becomes a US citizen. This is nonsense and cultural suicide.

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    • drsiqueComment by drsique
      July 19, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

      “Birthright citizenship” does not actually exist in this country. It is a misreading of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was passed to protect recently freed slaves and their children. When Americans stop allowing judges, such as the Supreme Court, to “interpret” our laws rather than uphold them, we will end injustices like anchor babies. This article does a pretty good job of highlighting the some of the pain caused to the children of illegal aliens by an immigration system allowed to devolve into chaos by our own federal government. The pain caused to American citizens is just as serious and not of their own making, i.e. 25 citizens killed every day to illegal alien homicides and DUIs, 100 billion dollars a year in illegal aliens expenses, lost jobs, the list goes on!

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  3. FlaJimComment by FlaJim
    July 19, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

    You won’t find me shedding any tears for these creeps. How come none of these people are interested in changing their own country’s oligarchy to a true representative republic? If these people are truly so ambitious, that’s what they’d be doing rather than coming here for handouts and/or illegal employment.

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  4. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    July 19, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

    Wow! And the liberal/progressive compassionate souls out there, think that WE’RE heartless, because we want our immigration laws enforced, and the border secured. Welcome to compassionate Mexico.

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  5. browniesComment by brownies
    July 19, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

    Are you kidding me?! This story stinks to high heaven. My first thought while reading this was that it just seems too easy. Who’s been over there with pay-off money? How long has this Mexico law been on their books – and if it’s always been there, has it ever been enforced before? Hmmmm… sounds like a bit of shenanigans going on. I can hear the liberal Americans and politicians already. “Oh those POOR children! They have no place to call home. That would be terrible to tear families apart. We should just let them ALL stay here.” And look at the timing….. Oh, is there an election looming? Grrrr.

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    • middlegroundComment by middleground
      July 19, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

      As I was clearing out old files in search of a copy of Mexican Immigration Law, I came across this gem which I must have received from someone. I thought it put the currect discussion in perspective. Incidently, no one immigrates illegally into Mexico. They go to jail.

      Dear President Bush:

      I’m about to plan a little trip with my family and extended family, and I would like to ask you to assist me. I’m going to walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico, and I need to make a few arrangements. I know you can help with this.

      I plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration quotas and laws. I’m sure they handle those things the same way you do here.

      So, would you mind telling your buddy, President Vicente Fox, that I’m on my way over? Please let him know that I will be expecting the following:

      1. Free medical care for my entire family.

      2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not.

      3. All government forms need to be printed in English.

      4. I want my kids to be taught by English-speaking teachers.

      5. Schools need to include classes on American culture and history.

      6. I want my kids to see the American flag flying on the top of the flag pole at their school with the Mexican flag flying lower down.

      7. Please plan to feed my kids at school for both breakfast and lunch.

      8. I will need a local Mexican driver’s license so I can get easy access to government services.

      9. I do not plan to have any car insurance, and I won’t make any effort to learn local traffic laws.

      10. In case one of the Mexican police officers does not get the memo from Pres. Fox to leave me alone, please be sure that all police officers speak English.

      11. I plan to fly the U.S. flag from my house top, put flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic celebration on July 4th. I do not want any complaints or negative comments from the locals.

      12. I would also like to have a nice job without paying any taxes, and don’t enforce any labor laws or tax laws.

      13. Please tell all the people in the country to be extremely nice and never say a critical word about me, or about the strain I might place on the economy.

      I know this is an easy request because you already do all these things for all the people who come to the U.S. from Mexico. I am sure that Pres. Fox won’t mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely.

      However, if he gives you any trouble, just invite him to go quail hunting with your VP

      Thank you so much for your kind help.

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  6. mcoryComment by mcory
    July 19, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    This tragedy would never have happened if our immigration laws were enforced. Although both parties are must accept the blame, the Democratic party is the primary blame. Like everything else with a liberal’s bleed heart, there are serious and tragic consequences to their need to fix every imaginary ill that they try to fix. Their need to make themselves feel good for a moment is more important than the the damage that they cause to individuals and to society.

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    • drsiqueComment by drsique
      July 19, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

      Bingo! A liberal will never consider the unintended consequences, which is why there are always so damned many. However, Mexican officials have actively encouraged illegal immigration to keep the remittances coming. Now, they have to fix a problem that they are, in no small way, responsible for.

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    • middlegroundComment by middleground
      July 19, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

      Reply to drsique

      You are absolutely correct when you say Liberals don’t want to see the consequences of their policies. To me the classic example of this was Abolitionist’s belief that 4 million slaves should be freed without any thought as to what they would do in the society of 1865. These newly freed slaves mostly had agricultural skills, but the South had no money to hire them and except for those who’d gotten a bounty to join the GAR no money to buy land in the West.

      The consequences of the Civil War are still with us and yet we still seem to be allowing demogogues to lead us rather than demanding reasoned discussions of problems.

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  7. REM1875Comment by REM1875
    July 19, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

    Here is an idea- they pay us for all the ‘free’ govt bennies they stole and the hospitalization and medical they used and we will help them stay in Mexico. A win – win situation for all.

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    • browniesComment by brownies
      July 19, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

      Brilliant! Ever think of running for office? That’s the kind of thinking I’d vote for!

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  8. freedomfighterComment by freedomfighter
    July 19, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    They need to understand that they cannot play hopscotch. They scale fences to come here illegally, with the intention of making all the money they can here, then retire back into their own Real Loyalty Country when they amass enough.
    You cannot sit on the fence and dangle your percentage over the side which gives you the most, only to turn around when things aren’t going as well here as they expected.
    I believe that when people cross our borders illegally, that their Country of origins Government be called and made to come here and take them back to their Country.
    This would cut the tremendous costs associated during the deportation process. It is not a matter of if they will go back, only when they will return. We owe them nothing for breaking our laws, and Mexico owes them nothings for breaking theirs. Let them sleep in the bed they made for themselves, then live homeless where their real loyalty lies, in Mexico.

    My Brother runs a large construction Company in Nevada, and when they offered the Mexican workers Insurance at a really good rate, they said they did not want the Insurance, to which my Brother said your family does not get sick?. The reply, we just go to the Emergency room, they cannot turn us down, and we do not have to pay for our treatments.

    This is a boil we have allowed to fester here way way too long. They are gifted with benefits here, even though they broke the laws to come here, then they want to bleed our systems then go back home. Their Loyalties never leave Mexico, just their bodies. Birth Certificates should not be given to those born here by illegal parents. They have to be born here through natural Citizen parents to be legally a US Citizen.
    We give them too much incentive to come here, and many of those families with several kids, get all assistance from our Government, and they make considerably more than my wife and I do on our Social Security.
    You can always tell them in walmart, they are the ones who don’t speak English, and wear the most expensive brands of clothes, shoes, cell phones, etc etc. With several completely unruly kids.
    We have to go with mostly all generic foods and clothing just to survive on what little we receive. We have paid into the system all our lives, these people do not pay a dime, and are able to live better here than most elderly Citizens do.
    How is it possible that illegals live better here in our Country than we do, who have paid into retirement and SS benefits all our lives, while they have paid nothing?. Home of the Free, seems more now to be the appropriate slogan for all the illegals coming here to live, for FREE.

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  9. Bill from MiddletownComment by Bill from Middletown
    July 20, 2012 @ 7:55 am

    The children pay for the sins of the parents. Those who come to America illegally bear full responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Maybe these kids have grounds to sue their parents for putting them in this situation.

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