9-Year-Old Detainee Illustrates a Surprising Challenge for Southern Border Communities

A nine-year-old Mexican-American girl was detained for 30 hours while border enforcement agents could ascertain her identity. Although she wasn’t being trafficked, she was caught leaving her home in Mexico and crossing the border to attend a public U.S. school -- something she does every day.

But is this right? Should local taxpayers foot the bill for her and potentially thousands of kids who do the same thing?

Julia Isabel Amparo Medina and her older brother were born in the United States but moved back to Mexico. Yet, they attend California elementary and high schools six miles away. They may not be alone.

Attention is focused on her experience being detained for 30 hours and away from her mother. Surely that must have been a scary experience for the elementary school kid.

However, the border agents were just doing their job to ensure that she wasn’t among the thousands of children who are trafficked as they cross the Southern Border illegally. Their scrutiny could be what saves another little girl from sexual abuse in the future.

Julia was reunited with her mother, but the episode should raise some questions about boundary hopping, a term used to describe when parents use a false address as proof of residency to enroll their child in a school that they think is better or safer than those in their home district.

Boundary hopping is common across the U.S. with an industry reportedly popping up to investigate what is a crime in some areas. Parents have been convicted and ordered to pay hefty fines, repay resources spent on their children and even serve jail time for defrauding the school system.

Parents boundary hop because the education a child receives from one school to another school can be vastly different.

Most families will move or purchase a home in a community zoned for the school they want their child to attend. School choice offers alternatives for families zoned for underperforming schools who cannot readily move.

Some parents though prefer to game the system by falsifying records to claim residency that they don’t have. That’s wrong.

Perhaps Julia’s family has a legal residence in the school district. If not, it appears her family has been defrauding the local school system.

When hundreds or thousands of families game the system, they burden the local public schools with costs that someone has to pay for. If the parents are not paying property taxes or state and local taxes, they are benefitting more than they are contributing.

We can all sympathize with parents wanting their children to have the best education possible. It’s why we advocate for school choice.

However, this is different. Gaming the system places greater burdens on schools to educate children who don’t live in the communities or the country. Public schools have limited resources and educating children who don’t live in the community stretches those resources further.

In calling attention to stringent enforcement efforts at the border, this story has also drawn attention to boundary hopping at border schools. Let’s hope school administrators and local officials are paying attention.

 


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