Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Students Living in Mexico Cross Border to Attend U.S. Schools

They are known as transfronterizos: children living in Mexico who cross the border into the United States daily to attend public schools.

Students who use false addresses to gain access to better schools are a common problem in many school districts, but these students in particular have sparked controversy over the costs to U.S. taxpayers. Patricia Leigh Brown of The New York Times recently reported on students living in Tijuana, Mexico, who attend a high school in Chula Vista, California.

The story notes that some of the  teens–who were born in California and are American citizens–rise as early as 3 a.m. to make the hours-long journey to school. As a result, they struggle to keep awake in class. Many of their teachers are sympathetic to their challenges.

The students themselves seem to have mixed emotions about the situation.

“It’s stressful,” Martha, a high school senior, told the Times. “You can get found out and kicked out of school. Sometimes I feel bad for lying. But I’m just going to school.”

It’s interesting to note that undocumented immigrant children attending American schools–which is legal– spark similar controversy over the costs to taxpayers. But unlike most of the transfronterizos, the parents of undocumented immigrant students often do pay property taxes if they reside within a district.

Even when the children are Americans, is it fair to allow transfronterizos to attend U.S. schools? And because the reporter describes how exhausted the children are by the time they arrive at school, I’m curious about their graduation rates and what becomes of them after high school.