The Christian Science Monitor Weekly

November 26, 2018

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hour commute one way. It's clear that Coro- na, a young father with kind eyes, pushes his kids to study hard and not miss the morning bus. But when she's alone, Gabriela says she would still choose a US education – even without her father's pressure. That's why Mr. Romero, the Deming su- perintendent, thinks everyone in America should spend a morning at his border bus stop. The immigration debate has turned toxic, but watching 5-year-olds walk through customs with passports around their neck might change perceptions about who belongs in this country. "It will change you, because you see this grit that these kids have from an early age.... They want to make this happen and they sacrifice to make it happen," says Romero, shaking his head in amazement at their efforts. What opposition there is to the school program comes mostly from older trans - plants to the region, say city officials. But their views don't appear to be gaining ground. And while a sentiment of "this is the way it's always been" undergirds the local support, New Mexico's unusual system for school funding plays a major role. Most states rely heavily on property taxes to fund local schools, but New Mexico pools all of its education funding and then sends the money to districts based on the number of students they have. Between Deming and Columbus, com - muters from Mexico make up more than 15 percent of the school population, which means more education dollars for a rural district. (Deming Public Schools is the city's second-largest employer.) Still, Corona says he has felt a change since Trump came to power. He often crosses the border using his US visa to do odd jobs such as yard work in Deming and Columbus, and over the years has come to recognize – and even befriend – some of the Border Patrol agents. Now many of them are less friendly. He says one even threatened to take his visa – something that had never happened before. "It seems like it's more acceptable to be able to say things that you couldn't say a couple years ago," says Romero. "And that's absolutely the truth with these students." At Deming High, Gabriela says the Palo - mas kids have been treated differently over the past year. She's silent for a minute, try- ing to think of the right word in English to describe the treatment. Finally, she nods her head and says "racism." The Palomas kids and the Deming kids have always had their respective cliques in the high school, says Gabriela. But recently there have been fights between the two groups – something she had never seen before. "The white kids say, 'You shouldn't be here,' " says Gabriela. "You should be back over [the border]." At the Walmart in Deming, older white couples peruse the aisles with canes and motorized scooters; young Hispanic couples hold up baby clothes. Most of the workers restocking the shelves are also Hispanic. While picking out pet food, Edie Scheller talks about how much she dislikes Deming. She moved here six months ago from Phoe- nix, a place she characterizes as much more strict, and rightfully so, on immigration. "I don't feel safe here," says Ms. Scheller. "You never know who is going to pop out." Loading her plastic bags into her car one at a time, Arlene Beem says she's fine with the city's school program, "as long as they don't bring the drugs." Her husband, Fred, takes a harder line. "A woman gets pregnant and then when she's in labor she comes to the border and we pay the bill," says Mr. Beem. "[The stu - dents] will come across, bring their parents, and all be on welfare." Jasso, the city's mayor, has heard this opinion a lot lately, and with the president pushing a narrative of Mexicans as crimi - nals, this doesn't surprise him. He under- stands that, to some, Deming's busing pro- gram may look like another handout. But the mayor tries to remind locals that educating these young US citizens is the best way to build the local tax base for a rural town with a shrinking population, as well as reduce future welfare expenditures. "Our whole goal is to get [children] ed- ucated, make them productive citizens," says Jasso. "They're going to come back and they're going to be the future leaders. They're going to be the next round of busi - ness people. They're going to be the ones that are contributing to this community and making it a great community." VNEXT PAGE M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O M E X I C O N E W N E W N E W Columbus Elementary School Deming Intermediate School Deming High School C o l u m b u s P a l o m a s D e m i n g JACOB TURCOTTE/STAFF MAP AREA A fifth-grade student shows his geometry work to a teacher at the elementary school in Columbus, N.M. American kids living in Mexico make up about 60 percent of the school's student body. RODRIGO ABD/AP THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | NOVEMBER 26, 2018 29

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