USA - MEXICO

Border dispute: Mexican residents attending US state-funded schools

This video claims to show dozens of Mexican residents crossing the border into Arizona and being driven by bus to a school in the town of Douglas, where they allegedly attend a state-funded school. The document has caused a furore in the state. Read more and watch the video...

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This video claims to show dozens of Mexican residents crossing the border into Arizona and being driven by bus to a school in the town of Douglas, where they allegedly attend a state-funded school. The document has caused a furore in the southwestern state.

The video was released on the state's education department website last Thursday. It was filmed by a staff member of the department, which is run by Republican Tom Horne. He insists that the footage "demonstrates conclusively" that the Omega Alpha Academy school in the town of Douglas is accepting students who reside in Mexico, at a cost of $300,000 [€217,000] per year to Arizona tax payers, and that the school is doing so knowingly:

"Since these vans operate either on school property or in areas immediately adjacent to the property, in full view of school staff, in order to pick up and drop off students, it is impossible that school leadership is unaware of this practice."

The school's leadership responded to the accusation the very next day. Director Jose Frisby scoffed at the alleged "evidence" and pointed out that the Arizona Department of Education had audited the school twice and found it to be in compliance with the law:

"This [is] an edited video that is neither time nor date stamped. Where a student goes before or after school is entirely up to the student, [...this accusation] ignores the reality of cross border traffic that occurs every day in our community. [...] Every student at Omega Alpha Academy has presented evidence, in a form approved by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), demonstrating residency. (...)"

“The majority have relatives living on the US side and they list that address when they register”

Jack Martin is director of special projects for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigration group.   

The reason the ADE went about this in such a way is probably due to the political context of border communities on the US - Mexican border. They tend to look at the two separate communities as one community. They get very upset if the state government takes any action that distresses the local residents as a whole. You have to remember that in many US towns close to the border, the majority of residents are Latino. They live on both sides of the fence: crossing the border is not a problem, as long as you have a non-immigrant visa or laser visa border crossing board.

There is a lot of practice of students who reside in Mexico studying in US schools. The majority of these have relatives living on the US side and they list that address when they register with the school. I expect it's probably the perception of the parents that their child would be getting a better education on the northern side of the border.

This situation has developed because the law for charter schools [schools administered by a private board but funded by the state], which this one is, does not contain a clause that excludes foreign nationals from attending. But the fact is, in this area you must be a resident of the state to receive state education.

Jose Frisby's statement basically meant that ‘there are no Mexican pupils that I know of'. That's because nobody's asked them. The two ADE audits that he cites in his statement would not have checked the nationality of the school's pupils - they don't do that. I think in this case the school can't deny these claims any further. I expect there'll be a legal provision put in place and at the end of the school year the non-resident pupils will be stopped from being re-admitted."

The "conclusive" evidence

The edited footage begins outside the school in Douglas, where several children in school uniforms board a van. They are then followed to the border town of Agua Prieta, where they disembark. Children are then shown crossing by foot. The video then seems to cut to another day, when pupils are boarding the bus at the border in order to go in the other direction, towards school. There are then two scenes showing youths disembarking the bus and entering the school.

Map of Douglas and Agua Prieta

The star shows the location of the Omega Alpha Academy school.