What happens to Mexicans returned from US?

By Anna-Catherine Brigida
BBC Global education

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThere were protests over the threats to deport undocumented young migrants from the US

Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans are deported to their home country each year from the United States.

The Trump administration's pressure on undocumented young migrants - the so-called "Dreamers" - could mean many more coming home.

But what are so many returning people going to do?

Starting a new life in Mexico has been harder than expected for Reyna del Rio, a 29 year old who spent most of her childhood in South Carolina before returning to Mexico.

Like many returning bilingual Mexicans, she was able to get a job at a call centre.

Tough returning

But the long hours and angry customers started to take a toll on her. A new initiative by Mexico's public education ministry, known by the Spanish acronym SEP, could be her ticket to a stable career.

"If you work at a call centre you do things repeatedly. I don't see it as enjoying my job," said Ms del Rio.

image captionReyna del Rio has returned to find work in Mexico, having left for the US as a young child

"I would like to teach and learn new skills. I would like to pass on what I've learned because I think it will fulfil me more than just doing customer service."

She is part of a group of young deportees and voluntary returnees who are in the process of applying for English teaching positions through SEP.

It's a project trying to make the most of their English language skills.

For more than 600 new teaching jobs, the education ministry adapted the application process to encourage repatriated Mexicans.

There were changes to make the positions more accessible to returnees, who often face bureaucratic roadblocks related to their time outside of Mexico.

The goal is twofold. It aims to provide employment for young deportees and help Mexico reach its goal of being bilingual - in Spanish and English - in 20 years.

"We made that clause flexible particularly for repatriated Mexicans, because the idea is that no one who might have the possibility of being an English teacher should be left without the chance of doing so," said Mario Chavez Campos, director of the general directorate of higher education for professionals in education, an office within SEP.

'Dreamers' sent back

As well as those deported, there are others returning by their own choice, although often forced by the lack of higher education and job opportunities.

This was the case for Ms del Rio, who left South Carolina at the age of 18, hoping to access better educational opportunities in Mexico, when she couldn't get financial aid as an undocumented student in the US.

image copyrightReuters
image captionPrototypes for the proposed border wall between the US and Mexico

When she arrived in 2009, she barely remembered the country she left when she was five years old.

But she persevered.

"We have the culture of never giving up," Reyna said of her fellow "Dreamers". "We have always had to fight for many things."

These undocumented young people, who might have come to the US as children, are feeling vulnerable.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionLooking through from Mexico into New Mexico in the US

President Donald Trump decided in September to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, known as DACA.

This allowed young undocumented immigrants to work legally in the US and be temporarily shielded from deportation.

About 800,000 youths received protected status under DACA, and more than 600,000 were from Mexico.

Many could soon face deportation as their DACA permits expire in the upcoming months.

Retraining as teachers

Mexico has pledged to support returning deportees, with initiatives to help them access employment, health and education. But many of these still remain promises.

So far 80% of the returned deportees trying to get a job as an English teacher through SEP have had difficulty meeting requirements, primarily for reasons related to their time spent outside of Mexico, according to Israel Concha, founder of the New Comienzos group which support people returning to Mexico.

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"They have to understand it's an emergency," said Mr Concha, a deportee himself.

"Tomorrow if thousands of people get deported because there is no immigration reform or there is nothing for DACA, we need to be ready and the federal government is not ready."

To be eligible for teaching, all candidates must have their US schooling recognised in Mexico, pass a test in Spanish grammar and Mexican history, and earn a college degree.

The scheme intends to break down the barriers returnees face in completing these steps, but there are still discussions about how to achieve this.

Mexican dream

Not all bilingual deportees have the training required to become a teacher, so the SEP is brainstorming other ways to incorporate Dreamers into English language lessons at public schools, such as through conversation clubs or as teacher's assistants.

"This call for English teachers is just the first step," said Mr Chavez Campos of the public education ministry. "From there, we have a list of the dreamers and deportees who are interested in participating in the national English strategy."

image copyrightReuters
image captionWhat opportunities are there for those returning to Mexico?

He says this is Mexico's "rapid response to the migration policies of the US".

Working as an English teacher would mean a new start for many of Mexico's deportees.

If selected to be an English teacher for SEP, Ms del Rio would receive much more than the minimum wage with a starting salary of about $1,100 (£830) per month, plus benefits and holidays.

Unlike working in a call centre, an English teaching position would provide a long-term career.

"We need more opportunities where we can have a job where we can retire," said Mr Concha.

"That's what we are looking for: the actual American dream in Mexico."

"The Mexican government wants to make Mexico bilingual in 20 years," said Mr Concha. "What better place to start than the dreamers that are coming back?"

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