Under federal law all students, regardless of immigration status have equal access to public education, but schools still have the right to ask for proof of residency. So what happens to American born students living in Mexico who cross into the states for school?
News Channel 9 found that many students who commute from Juarez to El Paso for school are actually American. Although they are entitled to an American education, some do break a few rules. In this story, we have blurred Brian’s face to protect his identity.
“Well I wake up every day in the morning like at 5 so I can get ready for school and I go to the bridge, and I cross every day,” says Bowie High School student Brian.
“Then if the line is long at the bridge I make half an hour, and then walk from the bridge to school, it’s about 15 minutes, so it’s kind of a long process but I’ve been used to it since this is my 6th year, so it like easy now,” says Jose Castaneda a senior at Lydia Patterson Institute.
These two teens have a lot in common. Both are American born citizens living in Juarez who commute daily to El Paso for a high school education. What sets them apart is where they chose to get their education. Now while both are entitled to an American education, only one is considered to be breaking a rule.
“It’s very important to remember that under the United States Supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe, which was issued in 1982, a student’s immigration status is not a permissible basis for denying admission to a public school,” says DeEtta Culbertson a spokesperson with the Texas Education Agency.
While the El Paso Independent School District does not require one to have a social security number to register for school it does require proof of residency.
“If for some reason we are alerted or notified that a student doesn’t live, in thee, whatever they listed as their residency, we do, we’ll verify that,” says Melissa Martinez with EPISD.
So Brian, who goes to Bowie High School, but lives in Juarez, how does he prove his residence? Brian says he used the address of a family friend to register. When we asked him how his friends do it he says the following: “They used addresses of relatives too, or they rent out apartments just to use the addresses.”
Whether it be a private or public education, why El Paso instead of Juarez?
“I totally think that it’s worth it because the opportunities over here are much better, the education the quality of the teachers, it’s amazing compared to those of Juarez,” Castaneda says.
Other Bowie students we talked to shared similar sentiments saying “because it’s a better education than Juarez, and because it’s better you have better opportunities in life,” and “cause it’s better over here, more opportunities over here.” All of them had opportunity in common then discussing why they commute to El Paso every day.
“That’s the reason why we all come here. We all just want a better future…a future that you won’t be able to have in Mexico, because it’s not the same over there. Here there are just way more opportunities,” says Brian.
In 1992, Bowie High School staff and students filed a lawsuit against Border Patrol. Under that ruling, Border Patrol agents could no longer patrol school campuses. The department also instituted a complaint process and provided additional training for agents in constitutional rights.