The News
The News
Tuesday 03 of October 2023

Children in the Shadows

Passport,photo: Wikipedia
Passport,photo: Wikipedia
There are currently more than 600,000 children living in Mexico who, because they were born in the United States to Mexican parents, do not have proper documentation

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, the Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE) announced that its 67 consulate offices around the globe (40 of which are in the United States) will now issue passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates and other official documentations to all Mexicans, regardless of the legal status in the country in which they are living or whether they already have other documentation.

This decision will not only help undocumented migrants living abroad, but will also benefit their children, many of whom fall through the cracks when they are born outside of the country and later return to Mexico.

According to U.S. Embassy figures, there are currently more than 600,000 children living in Mexico who, because they were born in the United States to Mexican parents, do not have proper documentation.

Consequently, they have problems registering for school and getting the papers they need to work.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico is working closely with Mexican authorities and the American Benevolent Society (ABS) to help document these binational children, who are now living in political ambiguity, since many of them lack proper documentation for either country.

With the help of a $60,000 grant from the International Rotary Club, the embassy, the ABS and Mexican officials have launched an outreach program to both locate and document these minors who, if they do not obtain the proper paperwork, face major hurdles in accessing education, health and work services.

The program, which began last year in Mexico City and the State of Mexico and will expand nationwide in the future, is intended to help these children assimilate into the legal systems of both countries.

Amid a rising wave of deportations and voluntary repatriations, 1.4 million Mexicans have been repatriated by U.S. migration officials, and at least half a million U.S.-born children have been uprooted from their schools and daily lives.

And it is unknown how many other Mexican families have returned to the country voluntarily due to the U.S. economic downturn and personal obligations.

And the number of returning migrants is likely to increase as a result of last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to block legal recognition of four million undocumented parents.

Whatever the reason for their return, the transition is tough for the U.S.-born children who not only face cultural-shock and language changes, but are hampered by delays accessing basic education and health services while their families tackle the often expensive and onerous bureaucratic process of claiming Mexican nationality.

One U.S. Embassy vice consul said that because these “invisible children” are often leery of authorities, they remain in the shadows and prefer to not attend school rather than having to confront the fact that they do not have a Mexican birth certificate or other necessary documentation.

“These children are not illegal,” she said. “They are dual citizens and they have rights in both countries.”

She said that helping these children to get their legal documents sorted out is vital because without them, they not only cannot attend school but often do not get immunized against disease and cannot get registered with the tax office to work.

“That means they end up working in the informal economy or, worse, are drawn into illegal activities,” she said.

ABS executive director Barbara Franco added that the American Benevolent Society has enlisted the help of two major nongovernment organizations to help find and document these children.

But Franco said that the best way to resolve the problem of undocumented children is to help their parents document them when they are born, both with U.S. and Mexican authorities.

“We need to save these children and incorporate them into the formal societies of both the United States and Mexico,” Franco said.

The SRE decision to empower its consulate offices to do just that is one more step in reaching the goal of providing legal documentation for all binational children.

Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected].