Mexican Schools Opening Branches in the U.S. As Families Fleeing Violence Settle in America

Aug 02, 2011

Kidnappings. Bodies dumped in remote areas. Severed heads found along highways. The drug- and gang-related violence in parts of northern Mexico is staggering by any standards. Fearing for their safety, Mexican families continue to flow across the border into the United States and settle in El Paso and other areas of Texas. In hopes of retaining their culture and rebuilding their lives, the families have begun to bring their businesses and, more recently, even their schools to American soil.

By Harrison Howe

classroom

Violence Begets Opportunity

Since the latest wave of violence has swept Mexico, it is believed that more than 150,000 Mexicans have fled their country for a safety that lies just a border away. Many flee with the hope that they will one day return; others, perhaps being more realistic about the deteriorating conditions in their homeland, realize that the move may not be as temporary as they had hoped or believed. And the longer they stay, the more they realize that their children are not being schooled in the traditions and manner of their own culture.

The answer? For some Mexican schools, it's to open institutions in the United States to serve these displaced families. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., who once stated that 'Violence begets violence', it seems in this case that violence begets opportunity: the mass exodus to the U.S. has led to previously-unavailable opportunities for Mexican students.

Welcome to the El Paso campus of Tecnologico de Monterrey, regarded as 'Mexico's MIT'. With 33 campuses located throughout Mexico, Tec de Monterrey is one of the country's most highly-regarded learning institutions. The new school in El Paso is a private high school; if successful, Tec de Monterrey hopes to expand its U.S. presence by opening other preparatory and higher education institutions in El Paso and other cities in and outside of Texas.

And Tec is not alone. Serving first- and second-graders, La Ibero Academy is another school based in Mexico that has opened in El Paso. Will more Mexico-based schools follow?

Speculation as Schools Open

Questions about the possibility of more Mexican schools opening in the United States are not the only ones being asked. For instance, some wonder if the openings of these schools indicate that families who have sought haven in the U.S. do not plan to return to Mexico. Some, including the president of University of Texas at El Paso, feel that such a move undoubtedly indicates permanence.

Others speculate if these new schools will prevent refugees from becoming 'Americanized'. Mexican parents have begun to worry that living in America has begun to have a cultural effect on their children. However, some believe that, despite best efforts, assimilation is fairly unavoidable if not inevitable.

Still another: can many of these refugees afford to have their sons and daughters attend these schools? Annual tuition at Tec in El Paso is $10,000; parents looking to enroll their young children at La Ibero Academy will pay $500 per month, excluding meals. Still, these private schools are preferred mainly because they focus on Mexican culture and language.

And finally, is the opening of these schools solely in response to the recent migration of Mexican families? No, says Martin Lopez Mendez, the director of Tec Monterrey's college campus in Juarez. The world, he says, is multicultural, and opening U.S. schools simply offers other options to all students. Tec El Paso's student affairs coordinator Irma Duron, quoted in the Dallas Morning News, said, 'We're trying to be another option for them, not just for Mexicans, but for Americans living in an increasingly globalized society.'

Find out more about the moral and legal obligations faced by teachers when dealing with illegal immigrants, or undocumented students.


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