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 type 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 document 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 the 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 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 which 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.

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

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La SEP, alejada de la realidad que enfrentan los jóvenes Dreamers retornados

Políticas públicas imponen el mayor obstáculo al reconocimiento de estudios de Dreamers retornados de Estados Unidos: La Revalidación

Fue hace cinco años cuando me confronté con un monstruo burocrático al que yo desconocía. Tras un retorno forzado a México después de cursar toda mi carrera académica y profesional en Estados Unidos (EUA), no fue suficiente acreditar mi identidad como mexicana para que se me reconociera mis estudios que completé en aquel país en el cual viví como indocumentada. Fue difícil sobrevivir uno de los rechazos más fuertes que uno puede experimentar – ser expulsada del país que te vio crecer. Aún más doloroso fue llegar a otro país, el cual me dicen que según es “mi casa” y al que “pertenezco” por el simple hecho de ser ciudadana, pero que a la misma vez sea el país que me ponga traba tras traba para poder hacer valer mis estudios y conocimientos. Es decir, en México, ante las entidades de gobierno como la Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP), mis estudios de EAU no valen.

El Vía Crucis de la revalidación de estudios

A pesar de haber terminado una carrera en Administración de Negocios de una universidad acreditada en EUA, el único nivel que se me ha reconocido en México por el proceso de revalidación es el de un Bachillerato General. La ayuda que obtuve de mis amistades en Los Angeles para obtener los documentos requeridos por la SEP fue lo que lo hizo posible. Para obtener estos documentos, una amiga fue a mi preparatoria en Los Angeles a pedirlos (por suerte fue alguien que asistió a la misma escuela). Pero en México, no fue suficiente tener una copia original del diploma o historial académico de “high school” o de la universidad.

El siguiente requerimiento fue la apostilla que solo se puede conseguir desde EUA. Para obtenerla, le di mis diplomas y certificados de estudios a otra amiga con la que frecuentaba por la proximidad, yo estaba Tijuana y ella en San Diego, para que fuera directamente a una oficina estatal de California Secretary of State, para tramitar la apostilla.  Ya teniendo la apostilla que certifica la legitimidad de dichos documento (ojo, no el contenido), tuve que buscar un perito traductor oficial para traducirlos del inglés al español. Para empezar, yo no sabía que significaba “perito” ni tampoco como verificar cual es oficial y cual no, esto no es algo que te oriente ninguna oficina de gobierno. Pero al echar uso de la tecnología y mi fiel amigo Google, me encontré con el portal del Poder Judicial de Estado de Baja California con una lista de traductores en mi zona. Después de comparar precios tomando en cuenta los escasos recursos económicos que tenía, me decidí por uno al cuál le pagué casi $200 dólares por traducir todo: los diplomas, certificados de calificaciones y hasta el mismo apostille. Finalmente, sometí esta documentación a la SEP estatal, claro después de pagar otra cuota, para que procesara la revalidación del bachillerato. Desde esta fase, la revalidación solo tomó un par de semanas para procesarse. Pero para obtener estos documentos, puede tomar meses (como fue para mí), años para otros y tal vez no sea posible para muchos jóvenes retornados y deportados que no cuentan con estos recursos.

El reconocimiento de mis estudios universitarios nunca sucedió; ahí quedo con un diploma universitario y su apostilla guardados en un gabinete después de decidir a no proceder con la revalidación (para revalidar un nivel de estudios tienes que haber revalidado el anterior). Esto fue después de platicar con representantes de cuatro universidades en Baja California que me hicieron saber del requerimiento de la SEP de equivalencia académica que posteriormente conocí como el Acuerdo número 286 (2001), el cual en su sección 25.1 estipula que el contenido de un plan de estudio extranjero tendrá que ser el 75% equiparable con uno en México, algo que es técnicamente imposible.

En fin, la opinión de cada uno de los representantes de estas universidades en México fue que en el mejor de los casos, solo tendría una revalidación parcial y yo tendría que cursar materias adicionales para completar en México una carrera que ya había terminado en EE.UU. En ese entonces, trabajaba en un call center por lo cual no tenía ni el tiempo ni los recursos suficientes para hacer una revalidación parcial de estudios, y seguir estudiando no era una opción viable. Para mi, era absurdo tener que tomar clases adicionales para que se me acreditara una carrera que no requiere una especialización en México (como lo puede ser medicina o leyes) para poder ejercerla. Con el transcurso del tiempo, la empresa en la que laboraba me promovió a un rol más adecuado a mis conocimientos. Me recibió mi diploma universitario, el mismo que todavía no reconoce la SEP en México de manera automática. Y después, fue mucho más fácil irme a estudiar al otro lado del mundo donde no me pedían una revalidación para continuar con mis estudios. En otro país donde no soy ciudadana, sí me hicieron valer mis estudios de EUA.

Continue reading “La SEP, alejada de la realidad que enfrentan los jóvenes Dreamers retornados”

Migrating to Study Migration

Last month marked the one year anniversary of Mundo Citizen Blog. Reaching such milestone prompted me to start thinking about all that has transpired since its inception. 2012 was the year I “come out of the shadows” and made my story of deportation public. I could have stopped at the first article that was published about my experience. However, after encouragement of friends, I started this blog.

At first I asked myself, “What else do I have to say about my life?” I did not think I would make it past a third post. A year later, I find myself with new insights and experiences shaped by my past that might be worth sharing. When I start questioning my writing and began to wonder whether this was just a space for rumblings I should keep private, I receive a note or a message from someone interested in my perspective and experience. It is a reminder that this is not about me, but of a collective experience that needs to exist in a public forum. With that in mind, Mundo Citizen is ready to continue for a second year.

Photo Credit: Nis Solis
Walking past the Tijuana Border, Photo Credit: Nis Solis

It was unthinkable to me a year ago I would be in such different circumstances. Life has an interesting way of working. Although looking carefully, I noticed there were some similarities in my experience of arriving in Mexico and living abroad in the United Kingdom. First, I continue to reside in a foreign country! Mexico was as foreign to me is Britain. I suppose the one advantage I have now is that I speak and think in the language that comes more natural to me.

Secondly, obtaining my immigration paperwork to study abroad was as tedious and difficult as obtaining all my documentation in Mexico after resettling. Actually, at some point I thought I was not going to be granted a UK visa as it was denied the first time I applied. Although I had the acceptance letter from my university and the required funds to quality on the point-based visa system, I had missed the requirement to prove I had possessed those funds for 28 consecutive days. If it had not been for a last minute scholarship that came to the rescue, I would have not made it to London on time to start my graduate program.

Despite of it all, here I am migrating to engage in an academic dialogue about a topic that is easily politicized, oversimplified and misunderstood: Migration. To Be Continued…

Food For Thought

Increasingly, borders have been opened to capital and goods, but closed to people. As a result, migrants who are forced to cross borders in order to survive have become modern outlaws.*

*From Borderless by Min Sook Lee (2006). Click here to watch documentary.

Updated Nov 08, 2013.