Friday, June 29, 2007

Schools call roll at a border crossing

Students routinely walk from
homes in Mexico to
attend public institutions in the U.S.
In Arizona, one district
has chosen not to ignore the violation.

San Luis, Ariz. — ROBERT Villarreal, standing at his post behind the customs officers at the border crossing station, knew he was being watched.

A slim teenage boy wearing a green T-shirt was furtively peering at him from behind a pillar on the Mexican side. "I know who it is before he even comes in," Villarreal said, ducking into an alcove. Minutes later, perhaps thinking Villarreal had left, the boy and another teen breezed through customs.

Villarreal sprang out of hiding and called the teens by name. "If you hide like that," he said, "you're just going to make things worse." Villarreal is not a border agent. He is a school attendance officer whose assignment is to catch students who live in Mexico but attend public school in the U.S.

Children who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants but live in Mexico cross every morning to get a better education for free in Arizona, breaking the law that requires them to live within the boundaries of the district. To many of their parents, who have ties in both countries, not living in the district is the educational equivalent of jaywalking.

"I pay taxes. I work over here," said a 31-year-old corrections officer who would not give his name as he walked his son from Mexico to elementary school in San Luis. "What's the difference?"

There are no hard statistics on the number of children who break the residency requirement, but some people opposed to U.S. immigration policy have seized on the issue as another example of how they say migrants exploit the U.S. They contend that most school districts do not enforce the law because they risk losing state funding, which is based on the number of enrolled students.

This from the Los Angeles Times.

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