The Christian Science Monitor Weekly

November 26, 2018

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Two years after Donald Trump won the presidency with promises to build a border wall and deport unauthorized immigrants, a record number of Americans see immi - gration as the leading problem facing the country. It was an incendiary issue leading into the midterm elections, with politicians amplifying a debate about the costs and benefits of allowing more people into the country, intensifying a clash over fundamen- tal values – humanity and diversity versus security – almost as old as the republic itself. A convoy of Central Americans who trav- eled toward the US border only sharpened the dispute. But people who live along this dusty ex- panse of the American Southwest harbor a more pragmatic view of the border. Immi- gration is not a black-and-white issue for residents of Luna County. Locals here, as elsewhere along the border, deal with the realities of keeping schools open, meeting health-care needs, and finding people to fill jobs. Tens of thousands of people routinely go back and forth across the border between sister cities to work, shop, see friends or relatives, and in the case of children from Palomas, learn math and biology in US classrooms. In that context, coexistence is more important than confrontation, working together more important than triumphing in Twitter wars. "[T]he Luna County schools is an ex- tremely interesting example of a com- munity making its own judgments about what makes sense.... There is a different thought process behind what they are do- ing," says Margie McHugh, director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. Critics of Luna County's policy argue that US taxpayers shouldn't pay to educate students who live in Mexico. But local lead- ers believe their program makes economic sense: These students are the county's next generation. They may live in Palomas today, says Mayor Benny Jasso of Deming, N.M., one of two towns whose public schools ed- ucate cross-border students, but it's very likely they will live in the United States later in life. "I'd rather have them educated," says Mayor Jasso, wearing a Deming High School "Wildcats" jersey with his name on the back. "I'd rather have them contributing and being a taxpayer and not be a drain on the system." THE EDUCATION ARRANGEMENT in Dem- ing Public Schools is perfectly legal, or at least legal-ish. A mixed-citizenship family structure is increasingly common along the border, but the ratio of these families in Palomas, a town of fewer than 5,000 people, is particularly high. Some Mexican-American families move to Palomas from within Mexico just for the schooling arrangement, or local agricultural opportunities, or a combination of the two. And many families move to Palomas after one parent is deported from the US since it allows children to use their US citizenship to study and work on the US side. Alejandra and Gregorio Corona stand with their children – (from l.) Gabriela, Alejandra, and Diego – outside their house in Palomas, Mexico (above). Ms. Corona drops off her daughters at the US-Mexican border so they can attend school in the US (top). VFROM PREVIOUS PAGE 'IT'S JUST LIKE, AWESOME, BECAUSE I HAVE [THIS] OPPORTUNITY EVERY SINGLE DAY.' – Gabriela Corona, a teenager who lives in Mexico but goes to high school in the US PHOTOS BY STORY HINCKLEY/THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR 26 THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | NOVEMBER 26, 2018

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