Returning Migrants

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Since the passage of SB 1070, some migrants and their children living in the Arizona have left voluntarily or been forced to return to Mexico. Dulce Medina, a graduate student in the ASU School of Social and Family Dynamics, talks about her research on return migration.

José Cárdenas: Since S.B. 1070 became law, some migrants living in the United States have either forcibly or voluntarily returned to Mexico. But when they return to their native country, they face the challenge of building their lives over in a country that they either don't know about or doesn't feel like their home. With me tonight is graduate student Dulce Medina with ASU's school of social and family dynamics to talk about research she did on this topic.
José Cárdenas: Dulce, welcome to "Horizonte."
Dulce Medina: Thank you.
José Cárdenas: The people we're talking about aren't simply people returning to their native country. We're also talking about young people who were born in this country and went back.
Dulce Medina: Exactly.

José Cárdenas: And what was the reason that you chose this particular research topic?

Dulce Medina: Well, my research interests lie in immigration studies. I knew I wanted to do my thesis for my master's in Mexico and so I contacted some nonprofit organizations and spoke to them about the issues that they were seeing on the front end. And one of the things that they mentioned was that they were starting to see an influx of Mexican nationals returning with U.S.-born children and so I wanted to further explore the challenge, if any, that these families were facing.

José Cárdenas: And you were talking about the whole family. So the parents who at least one of whom was born in Mexico and the children, some of whom may have born in the United States or came to the country at a very young age.

Dulce Medina: Exactly. These were mixed activity family. So they consisted of at least one Mexican national parent and at least one U.S.-born child between the age of six and 17. So that I could interview them. And in many cases they had Mexican -- Mexican siblings as well or all U.S.-born children.

José Cárdenas: As I understand it, having looked at your paper, some of the data indicates that Mexico has a fairly significant foreign-born population.

Dulce Medina: Yes, there is. Since the year 2010, the numbers have nearly doubled. It went from about 500,000 to about one million.

José Cárdenas: A significant number. Those are returning either Mexican citizens or their children.

Dulce Medina: Exactly, just between the ages of nine and 15, roughly about 66%.

José Cárdenas: And you chose a particular area of Mexico to work in and a small town as I understand it, near Mexico city.

Dulce Medina: The state of Mexico, because it was central in the state and it has one of the largest numbers for foreign-born people. And so that's where I first contacted the nonprofits organizations to get an entry to the migrant population.

José Cárdenas: Tell us about the folks that you talked to.

Dulce Medina: In what sense?

José Cárdenas: Well, just a description of them. As I understand, it was a small town in the state of Mexico you
wept to and you focused on how many people?

Dulce Medina: Well, the interviews were 21 people. It consists of nine children and 11 adults. And it was actually in an entire municipality, not just one town, comprised of different -- many towns and ranchos and so it is an entire municipality.

José Cárdenas: Being the communal farms?

Dulce Medina: Exactly.
José Cárdenas: Were there common experiences that the children were experiencing upon their trip over living now in Mexico?

Dulce Medina: Yes. For the children of these returning migrant, not them, actually being returning migrants themselves, they were actually well received by the family or extended family but within the regular population, the rest of the community, they seemed to be ostracized in a way. So and you teased, mimicked and looked down upon and in some instances discriminated against, even by school, and had a tough time within the community.

José Cárdenas: You talked about experiences at different levels. You mentioned community. Government involvement was also an issue for them?

Dulce Medina: Exactly. I took a look at their ways of incorporating the government, their society and ethnic community. For the government piece, I relied heavily on some education information. And I focused on how parents were having a difficult time enrolling their children in schools and this was for the U.S.-born. Specifically because there wasn't a standard procedure to enroll U.S.-born children into Mexican schools but on top of that, some of the requirements that were necessary. For example, the -- there's a thing -- [Speaking Spanish] which is a register card for foreigners. And they needed this card in order to register their children and the process is convoluted and un-standardized and there were multiple offices within the state just to obtain the card, in addition, they also had a -- their U.S. birth certificate which is essentially a stamp or in some cases a letter verifying the validity of the birth certificate. Of the families I interviewed, each went through a different process which goes to show this particular municipality didn't necessarily have a standard procedure. So it highlights the issues that returning migrants may face.

José Cárdenas: We're almost out of time. Was any of this a surprise? I think most of us would expect going to a country that you didn't know and returning to a culture that you really hadn't experienced would be difficult no matter what.

Dulce Medina: Exactly, one would expect -- well, actually I was surprised that even though -- I thought that being of Mexican descent would -- would give one an easier time integrating into Mexican society. But we're seeing there are differences between the children and the parents. The parents aren't -- they're not integrating well with their family -- within the community, yes, but not within the family.

José Cárdenas: On that note, we have to end the interview. Thanks for joining us.

Dulce Medina: Thank you.

José Cárdenas: Pleasure having you.

Dulce Medina: Uh-huh. ¶¶

Dulce Medina:ASU School of Social and Family Dynamics graduate;

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