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Many American-born children living in Mexico lack needed records

By Dwight A. Weingarten, Medill News Service
Many American-born children living in Mexico lack needed records
Over 30,000 of the more than half a million American-born children living in Mexico do not have needed documentation such as school records or health reports, according to the Mexican Ministry of Public Education. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 19 (UPI) -- Thousands of children born in the United States who have moved to Mexico because their parents were deported or returned home voluntarily lack records and other documents needed to enroll in Mexican schools and access social services, officials of both countries say.

Former Mexican diplomat Gustavo Mohar Betancourt says that Mexico hosting so many undocumented children is "completely new."

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Over 30,000 of the more than half a million American-born children living in Mexico do not have needed documentation such as school records or health reports, according to the Mexican Ministry of Public Education.

"These children have the right to both nationalities and need to have identity documents that confirm both their U.S. and Mexican citizenship," U.S. State Department official said in a statement.

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The U.S. mission in Mexico, composed of the embassy and consulates, is growing so it can identify and document these children, said Ariel Ruiz Soto, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

It launched the Documéntate ("Get Documented") campaign in 2014 to help address the issue of undocumented U.S. citizen minors living in Mexico.

Ruiz Soto says the U.S. consulates in Mexico are mimicking some efforts by Mexican consulates in the United States, which have used mobile offices to identify and document citizens outside of the large population centers.

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In 2018, with help from local Mexican government offices, the U.S. mission in Mexico coordinated 42 passport fairs in 15 Mexican states under the Documéntate campaign, according to a State Department official.

Identifying and documenting this shared population requires significant cooperation between the two countries, Ruiz Soto said, especially when people live outside the main population centers.

Mexican Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong estimates between 430,000 and 600,000 U.S.-born children are living in Mexico, though the status of their parents is not always known.

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Former US. ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson said the two countries have experience working together from past crises, such as the exodus of unaccompanied children from Central America in 2014.

"The more you cooperate based on shared responsibility, there is a multiplier effect in your ability to get things done," Jacobson said.

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