Lions and Tigers and Activists, Oh My!

It has been a busy year and part of the reason for writing sporadically is because activism has become a priority in my life.

I wished I could have written more about my work in the past year, perhaps in the future I will, but in Mexico, we experienced “Momentum”[i] in our advocacy work this past year. To give you an idea, I briefly describe some of the projects that kept me busy in Mexico City since June 2014:

  • Education: I completed my Master’s program in Global Migration and although I did not attend my graduation in London, I received my diploma via mail a couple months ago. I hope to have made proud those that supported me on my campaign #DreamsWithtoutBorders which made it possible for me to pursue my dream of completing grad school. Unfortunately, as is the case for my U.S. Bachelor’s degree, this Master’s is not recognized in Mexico (read more below on education revalidation requirements).
UCL Diploma
UCL Diploma
  • Research in Interculturality and Transnational Advocacy: My newly completed “formal” training in migration studies jump started my career as an emerging scholar with “transborder experience” (wink, wink) and <i worked on two projects; the first one included a research project which resulted in my first institutional publication (Spanish) for the Mexico City government to analyze access and visibility of the population subject to rights through the Law of Interculturality passed in 2011. In the second project, I supported the planning and organization of a transnational conference that propelled transnational mobilization of youth migrant activists. Below is a link to the recorded “Talk Show” (Spanish) that reviewed the objectives and outcomes of our conference and a closer look at the stories of some of the 29 youth activists that participated.

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Mexican Secretariat of Education (SEP) is far removed from the reality faced by Dreamer returnees

The requirement of revalidation of foreign studies is the greatest obstacle faced by Dreamers as they seek full recognition of their U.S. education in Mexico

It was five years ago when I encountered a bureaucratic monster that I did not know existed. Upon returning to Mexico due to a deportation, I learned that my entire academic and professional career I built in U.S. as an undocumented immigrant would not be recognized in the country where I could prove to be a citizen. It had already been difficult to survive one of the worst types of rejection I had experienced – the expulsion from the country that I lived most of my life. Even more painful was to arrive to a country which I am told is supposed to be “my home” and where I “belong” simply because I was born there, but where I would also encounter countless obstacles when I attempt to use the education and knowledge I had acquired “abroad”. In other words, according to government agencies like the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) in Mexico, my education from the U.S. is worthless.

Revalidation: The de facto invalidation of foreign studies

Even though I completed a career in Business Administration from an accredited U.S. university, Mexico has only recognized my high school education as a result of its revalidation requirement, and this was only possible due to the support I received from my friends in Los Angeles to secure the documentation required by SEP. To obtain these documents, I had to ask a friend to go to my school in Los Angeles to request them (luckily, my friend was someone who had attended the same school which facilitated this). However, in Mexico, it was not enough to have an original copy of my diplomas and transcripts.

An Apostille of my school records, which can only be obtained within the US, was also required. I handed over my diplomas and school transcripts to another friend that thankfully lived within close proximity, I was Tijuana and she lived in San Diego, so she could go directly to the closest office of the California Secretary of State. With an Apostille on hand to certify the legitimacy of the document (only the authenticity of the signature and its origin but not its content), I had to find a licensed professional in Mexico to translate these documents from English to Spanish. I was clueless as to how I proceed in finding and verifying if a translator was “licensed” as this is not something provided in an information sheet nor a guide by a Mexican government office. A guide like this does not currently exist. However, I made use of my technological skills and with the help of my faithful friend Google, I came across the website of Judiciary of the State of Baja California which had listing of licensed translators in my area.

After comparing prices and taking into account the limited financial resources I had, I hired a translator whom I paid close to $200 dollars for translating all the diplomas, transcripts and the Apostille itself. Finally, I submitted these documents to the regional SEP office (of course after paying an additional fee) to process the high school revalidation. From this point forward, the revalidation process was completed in a couple of weeks. However, obtaining all the required documents can take months, as it did for me, years for many others or perhaps impossible for many deported and returned youth or who lack that resources to assist them with obtaining the required documents and lack the information to start the process.

The recognition of my university degree is another story; it remained filed away in a cabinet with my diploma and Apostille after I decided I would not proceed with the revalidation (to revalidate a degree, all prior education levels need to be revalidated first). This was an informed decision I made after meeting with representatives of four universities in Baja California that made me aware of the SEP equivalency requirement that I would subsequently know as Agreement Number 286 (2001). In its Section 25.1, this agreement stipulates that the course plan of a foreign degree must match 75% with a similar academic program in Mexico, a requirement that makes full recognition of a foreign degree technically impossible.

In the end, it was the opinion of each university representative that in the best possible scenario, I would have a partial revalidation and it was very likely I would be required to take additional courses to obtain a B.S. degree in Mexico, the same degree I had already completed in the U.S. Having neither the time nor financial resources as I worked in a call center at the time, proceeding with a partial revalidation of my university degree and taking more courses was not a viable option. It also seemed absurd that I had to be required to take additional classes to accredit a career that in no shape or form required a specialization (like medicine or law) to exercise it. Over time, the company where I worked promoted me to a position that was a better fit for my skills and knowledge. In the private industry, my university diploma was accepted, the same one that was not automatically recognized by the SEP in Mexico. Later, I would become much easier to travel to the other side of the world where a revalidation was not required to continue my studies. To enroll in a postgraduate program, a school application and a U.S. diploma was all that was required. It was there, in an educational institution of a foreign country where my U.S. degree was valued and accepted without a senseless bureaucratic requirement.

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