Duncan on Mexican Women Who Cross U.S. Border to Give Birth: ‘These Are Our Kids’

Penny Starr, CNS News, April 17, 2014

Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited an elementary school in Columbus, N.M. last year where 75 percent of the students live in Mexico but are being educated in the United States because their mothers crossed the border to seek medical help, and their birth here makes them U.S. citizens.

“These are our kids and they’re trying to get a great education,” Duncan said during a visit to the school, which was part of his 2013 school bus tour. “These are children and families who are trying to live the American dream of putting everything, everything on the line to get a great education.

“And it’s frankly inspiring,” Duncan said.

Duncan’s remarks are included in a 2013 Washington Post documentary about “blurred” immigration lines, which the school has posted on its website.

The documentary explains that women who live in Palomas, Mexico often cross the border to give birth Columbus, New Mexico because the U.S. hospital is closer than the nearest facility in Mexico and the local Palomas clinic doesn’t always have a doctor on staff.

“So for decades, women in labor have been allowed to cross the border and go to the nearest hospital, which happens to be just 30 miles north of the U.S. border,” the documentary says. “Once they give birth there, the children become citizens.”

The film includes an interview with Columbus Fire Chief Ken Riley, who over the years says he has “taken thousands of trips to the border to pick up women in labor.”

The hospital in Columbus, N.M. estimates it loses $1 million a year providing services to women who can’t pay for them, according to the Post.

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The Department of Education recently posted a video of Duncan’s trip to Columbus Elementary School, where he was greeted by a mariachi band.

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Duncan also hailed the children’s parents for having “the courage to drop their 6- and 7- and 8-year-olds off; to send them here to chase the American dream, to get a better education, to contribute to society,” Duncan said.

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