Mexico drops cer­ti­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ment for United States-schooled kids


Mexico on Mon­day dropped the oner­ous re­quire­ment that all for­eign-schooled chil­dren get of­fi­cially no­ta­rized, trans­lated copies of pre­vi­ous school records in or­der to study at their grade level in Mexico — a mea­sure that could help hun­dreds of thou­sands of young mi­grants who have re­turned from the United States.

Mexico had re­quired records be cer­ti­fied with a seal known as an apos­tille and be trans­lated by a cer­ti­fied trans­la­tor in Mexico.

The costly and cum­ber­some process had dis­cour­aged hun­dreds of thou­sands of re­turn­ing mi­grant chil­dren from go­ing to school in Mexico, or meant they could only au­dit cour­ses with­out of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of chil­dren have re­turned to Mexico, mainly from the United States, af­ter their par­ents were de­ported or chose to re­turn.

The Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment pub­lished changes to the rules on Mon­day, say­ing its goal was to make ed­u­ca­tion more ac­ces­si­ble. The depart­ment also dropped the cer­ti­fied-trans­la­tion re­quire­ments.

“The main prob­lem that mi­grants face when they try to get school ser­vices, is the lack of doc­u­ments, and the re­quire­ment that they get the apos­tille,” the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment said in a press state­ment. The apos­tille is a seal is­sued by state or fed­eral agen­cies to au­then­ti­cate gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing school records.

The seal costs only about US$8 per doc­u­ment, but get­ting schools to ex­press- mail doc­u­ments to apos­tille of­fices in the U.S., and then on to re­cip­i­ents in Mexico, from out­side the coun­try, and then get­ting them trans­lated, can run into hun­dreds of dol­lars.

‘Prob­lem that pre­vents ac­cess to

ed­u­ca­tion for many’

Berenice Valdez, the public pol­icy co­or­di­na­tor for the non-gov­ern­ment In­sti­tute of Women in Mi­gra­tion, told of one re­turn­ing mi­grant in the cen­tral state of Pue­bla who earns less than US$100 per month and has three chil­dren who need to au­then­ti­cate their U.S. school doc­u­ments. The woman couldn’t even af­ford to travel to the state cap­i­tal to start the process.

“It is a very big prob­lem that pre­vents ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion for many chil­dren,” Valdez said. The in­sti­tute es­ti­mates that about 307,000 for­eign-born chil­dren were study­ing in Mex­i­can schools, al­most 290,000 of whom were born in the United States. The num­ber of Mex­i­can­born re­turn­ing mi­grant chil­dren may be as large or larger.

Many times, re­turn­ing mi­grant chil­dren are al­lowed into schools to au­dit classes, but can’t get of­fi­cial school cer­tifi­cates at the end of the year.

“Our task is to guar­an­tee equal ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tional ser­vices ... for mi­grants, who are an ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble sec­tor of the pop­u­la­tion,” said As­sis­tant Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Javier Trevino. “Our goal is to make sure that ac­cess, re­ten­tion and pro­mo­tion in the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem is based only on chil­dren’s aca­demic per­for­mance.”

Be­yond just aca­demics, not be­ing able to get into school makes life more dif­fi­cult for chil­dren al­ready strug­gling to ad­just to a cul­ture and lan­guage many of them know lit­tle about af­ter years in the United States.

“It had a very strong emo­tional im­pact” on mi­grant chil­dren, Valdez noted, “be­cause ed­u­ca­tion is an im­por­tant part of their in­te­gra­tion.”

Why the rules weren’t changed ear­lier, de­spite years of pres­sure from mi­grant par­ents, isn’t clear.

“It was bu­reau­cratic in­er­tia,” said Valdez. “No­body wanted to take the ini­tia­tive.”

But it ap­pears that other iden­tity doc­u­ments needed to get health care at public hos­pi­tals and clin­ics may still need to be trans­lated and be cer­ti­fied with an apos­tille.

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