Activist Research

The right of U.S.-educated deportees to access educational Opportunities in Mexico

I have engaged in a personal inquiry that has transformed my life experience (20 years as an undocumented migrant, plus 7 years of being a deportee) into a reflection of the social conditions and policies that have affected me, which at one point led me to study migration from an academic perspective.

It is not very common that a research “subject” becomes a researcher (AKA “insider researcher”). But I think it has allowed me to have the tools to contribute another perspective in academic work on migration, particularly return migration in forced situations. At the same time, my drive has not been about making a career as in traditional academia nor publishing in peer-reviewed articles (although it will be nice to get some of my writing there at some point).

I have prioritized using the knowledge I have acquired to advance social causes around migrant rights. One particular issue has been access to education for deportees in Mexico, primarily because I am personally affected by it. I still have a B.S. (from the US) and a Masters degree (from UK) that are yet to be recognized in Mexico. But as a result of using confrontational approaches with Mexican education authorities*, and applying some research skills to deciphering the educational legal framework, its problems and possible solutions, I led the creation and management of a technical working group with the federal Mexican Ministry of Public Education (SEP).

This in turn became a space that we deportees created; however we also understood the importance of forging alliances with other experts in civil society and academia who understood the issue and who could strengthen our demands to remove institutional barriers for deportees and returnees. These demands were not something we keep behind closed doors.

On “Espiral” Show, dialogue with SEP and other academics.

I also participated in media interviews and wrote a few opinion/analysis articles to make the issue visible. Three months of dialogue with SEP resulted in policy changes (June 2015) designed to guarantee the constitutional right to access public education (basic and secondary) of children and youth migrants – it includes refugees and non-Mexican nationals – not just deportees).

I was disappointed that SEP did not include higher education (a key demand) when they had a chance (they said it was too complicated). However, SEP high-level officials, many Senators, and even the Mexican president were certainly in a rush to pass “something” when the topic of “deported Dreamers” became a political tool for promotion as Trump was about to take office. I was surprised how almost no one becomes critical of the process, but a couple of us raised the issue because we were unwilling to have a “complicated” solution be taken lightly for the sake of political opportunism. In the end, another set of changes to SEP regulations passed and we are still waiting to see how these will be implemented and to what extent it will help U.S. educated deportees as they attempt to have their college/university degrees recognized in Mexico not only to continue their studies but also to join the high-skilled workforce.

Some additional articles I have written and co-authored (my apologies that not all of them have an English translation, but the ones written in English will give you enough background):

*I narrate on the article the moment three of us (2 deportees, 1 returnee) followed the SEP official and after a confrontational chat, he outreached to us for a meeting which then resulted in the working table.