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Transfronterizos residing in one country, schooling in another

The New York Times chronicles the life of students who cross the border so they can be taught in the U.S.

For the overwhelmingly majority of immigrants, receiving a quality education is of utmost importance. It's often the means by which they can land a job in the U.S. so they can send money home to their family members who need it. Occasionally, however, children of immigrants find themselves in situations where receiving an education in the U.S. can be complicated by circumstances beyond their control.

As recently reported by The New York Times, at the U.S.-Mexico border, a sizable number of people are entering the United States to go to school, even though they live in Mexico. Most of these border-crossers are American citizens, but because their parents have returned to live in Mexico, they are not residents.

Referred to as "transfronterizos," these high school-aged individuals wake up early every morning to catch a bus that will take them near the border. It's here that they cross into the U.S., hoping that customs enforcement officers won't notice them. The Times notes that while some Mexican families pay the tuition that's required, most do not, nor do they pay the property taxes that provide the resources for students to attend classes.

While some transfronterizos are able to cross the U.S.-Mexico border without documentation, others use fake addresses that give the impression that they're actually U.S. residents.

"It's stressful," Tijuana resident Martha, a high school senior who attends classes in Chula Vista, California, told The New York Times. "You can get found out and kicked out of school. Sometimes I feel bad for lying. But I’m just going to school."

The motivating factor that's driving so many to cross the border is the quality of education Mexican residents can receive in the U.S. as opposed to their home country. Citing a 1997 study from the University of San Diego, the Times reports that while the educational system has improved in Mexico, low graduation and high dropout rates make a U.S.-based education more appealing.

"The gap between the U.S. and Mexican sides is great enough that people have a strong incentive [to cross]," said David Shirk, director of the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute.

The rise in transfronterizos has put a strain on schools, both in terms of resources and with regards to residency requirements. But ultimately, faculty members feel it's their duty to teach those who come.

"What do we do with these youngsters?" Richard Fragle, superintendent of schools in Calexico, California, told the paper. "Philosophically, as an educator, if a young person comes to the door, we should educate them."

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