The day before our first day of class, there was an article by Patricia Leigh Brown on the front page of the New York Times entitled, “Young U.S. Citizens in Mexico Brave Risks for American Schools” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/us/young-us-citizens-in-mexico-up-early-to-learn-in-the-us.html?pagewanted=3&sq=mexico&st=cse&scp=6). I found this article to be particularly arresting, and when we had our discussion on homeland, I couldn’t help but think what that word must mean for the students Brown discusses. These students are American citizens whose families have moved back to Mexico for the cheaper cost of living, but who cross the border daily to attend American schools. Referred to as “transfronterizos,” they rent apartments, use fake addresses, or have a relative appointed their legal guardian (among other things) so as to sneak their way into school. If they are caught, they are kicked out.
In “Violent Belongings,” Amy Kaplan’s first definition of homeland, the one she provides before she delves into the tensions that evolve from the fluidity of the word in today’s lexicon, is homeland as a place of origin, as a birthright. She then asks us to think of those who consider America their home, but not their homeland. Applied to Brown’s article, it would seem that for some students, Mexico is their home, but America is their homeland. By this I mean that students, and this is an oversimplification and a person interpretation, see an education in America as their birthright. Conservatives point out that these families aren’t paying taxes and therefore should be excluded from the American school system. I’m not convinced by this argument; however, I have difficulty articulating my views on this issue. My feelings lie somewhere between the idea that America should see education as an obligation to its citizens and the idea that discrimination against students crossing the border is just as wrong as racism and classism in general, both in the classroom and out.