“These are our kids and they’re trying to get a great education,” Duncan said during a visit to the school, which was part of his 2013 school bus tour. “These are children and families who are trying to live the American dream of putting everything, everything on the line to get a great education.
“And it’s frankly inspiring,” Duncan said.
Duncan’s remarks are included in a 2013 Washington Post documentary about “blurred” immigration lines, which the school has posted on its website.
The documentary explains that women who live in Palomas, Mexico often cross the border to give birth Columbus, New Mexico because the U.S. hospital is closer than the nearest facility in Mexico and the local Palomas clinic doesn’t always have a doctor on staff.
"So for decades, women in labor have been allowed to cross the border and go to the nearest hospital, which happens to be just 30 miles north of the U.S. border,” the documentary says. “Once they give birth there, the children become citizens.”
The film includes an interview with Columbus Fire Chief Ken Riley, who over the years says he has “taken thousands of trips to the border to pick up women in labor.”
The hospital in Columbus, N.M. estimates it loses $1 million a year providing services to women who can’t pay for them, according to the Post.
But the documentary also notes that under a 2010 agreement between U.S. and Mexico, the Palomas clinic would get more money and staff, and the U.S. would accept only emergency cases. Today, “runs to the border by the Columbus EMTs have been cut in half,” the documentary notes.
The Department of Education recently posted a video of Duncan’s trip to Columbus Elementary School, where he was greeted by a mariachi band.
“Obviously here in Columbus is something I’ve never seen before,” Duncan says in the video. “You have children who are American citizens at the local elementary school – Columbus Elementary – the majority of the kids travel back and forth across the border every single day.”
Duncan also hailed the children’s parents for having “the courage to drop their 6- and 7- and 8-year-olds off; to send them here to chase the American dream, to get a better education, to contribute to society,” Duncan said.
Harvilee Moore, superintendent of Deming Public Schools, says in the Post documentary that the practice of allowing children who live in Mexico to attend Columbus schools dates back to a decision in the 1950s by a former school principal, and that decision has always been supported by the state of New Mexico.
“We are educators,” Moore said. “We consider that we are putting children first. We are doing our job.”
Duncan says children are getting more than an education when they cross the border into the United States, as school officials are “making sure the children are fed not just during the week put on the weekends.
“They make sure the kids dental needs are met, their health care needs are met,” Duncan said.
“And they are trying to remove every single barrier to children being academically successful.”
Under the 14th Amendment, automatic citizenship is conferred on anyone born in the United States, even if the parents are here illegally.
Earlier this year, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) re-introduced legislation that would "fix the flawed interpretation of the Constitution's citizenship clause."
King's "Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013" would end the current practice of extending U.S. citizenship to hundreds of thousands of "anchor babies," which he called a magnet for illegal immigration.