Things That Matter

Meet “Americanos,” U.S. Citizens Who Choose To Live In Mexico

In a photo series titled “Americanos,” Mexican photographer Alejandro Cartagena explores the lives of those with U.S. citizenship, either through birth or naturalization, that choose to live in Mexico. Cartagena’s photos capture a population of “Americanos” who don’t fit in neatly to the U.S.-Mexico immigration narrative. Mitú talked with Cartagena to learn a little more about the people in the photographs and his inspiration for the project.

Alejandro Cartagena says he wants to give people a new perspective on the American Dream.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“I would only photograph those who are living in Mexico and somehow think of their American citizenship as a dormant option,” Cartagena told mitú in an email. “I wanted to show how being American is a dream to many, but not always as the media shows it.”

According to Cartagena, there are a number of people in Mexico who are U.S.-born or U.S. citizens through birthright who see their American citizenship as a backup option.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“My wife is a U.S. citizen born here in Mexico, but because she has not lived more than five years in U.S. territories she cannot pass along her citizenship to her children,” Cartagena told mitú, explaining how the photo project came about. “This got me asking friends about this idea and found many had friends who had done this and some were actually U.S. citizens, but I did not even know it!” According to Cartagena, there is a sizable population of Mexicans with U.S. citizenship through birth or naturalization that take advantage of their citizenship to give their children a backup plan in the U.S.

But not all of the “Americanos” want to live in the U.S. In fact, some of them even obtain fake documents to make themselves legal Mexicans in the eyes of the law.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“Most of them have actually never lived in the U.S. They were born there, but have lived their whole life in Mexico,” Cartagena told mitú. “The older people I photographed were even illegal in Mexico for a time. Back when Mexico did not permit [people] to have two citizenships, their parents registered them illegally as Mexican citizens in order for them to go to school and get medical care in Mexico.”

“The interesting part of this is that it was all systemized,” Cartagena told mitú. “They knew where and who to go to to get their fake Mexican birth certificates and what lawyers could make them be legal.”

Cartagena further explains that some of the “Americanos” that he photographed have received harassment from neighbors and classmates.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“They get the question of why they don’t take advantage of being American and just move across the border. Some also get sh*t from border officers as to why they are living in Mexico if they are American,” Cartagena told mitú. “The parents of the children I photographed have to travel with hospital paperwork where they can prove to border patrol that they paid their hospital bills.”

“Their American citizenship was a burden, and for some of them, it still is,” Cartagena said.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

According to Cartagena, their U.S. citizenship makes moving around difficult. Many times, people with U.S. citizenship are interrogated as they try to cross the border since they are U.S. citizens living in Mexico as a Mexican national. Some have even had to obtain falsified documents so they can go to school and receive medical services.

One important fact to know is that “Americanos” live in Mexico as Mexican citizens and don’t use U.S. programs.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“None use medical services in the U.S. or take advantage of any freebies they could have access to,” Cartagena explained to mitú. “They just want their child to have the option.”

Many of the older “Americanos” have spent time living in the U.S. and simply chose to move back to Mexico for the comfort.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“Some moved there to study in high school, but just ‘didn’t like it,'” Cartagena said. “Some go back and forth everyday to work or study. Some just use their citizenship to go shopping for cheap stuff. I photographed someone who is, as she put it, kind of addicted to shopping cheap in the U.S., and she would do a trip just to get dish washing soup at Walmart.”

Cartagena says that “Americanos” live invisibly in Mexico, but the chance for dual citizenship with the U.S. is so alluring that they are willing to deal with the hassles.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

As far as those who have to travel with their hospital paperwork, Cartagena explains that it “seems to be a hassle, but they take it as part of being bi-nationals.”

For the photographer, it was important to make sure that his photos showed the multifaceted side to immigration and border issues that many never think about.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“I want the pictures to show that border issues, the “American dream,” citizenship is not black and white and simple,” Cartagena told mitú. “A border is an imposed thing, but human necessities and family break down these borders all the time.”

You can see the full photo project here.

READ: Meet The Genius Behind These Playfully Creative Photos

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Four Mexican Children Have Been Nominated For The Children’s Peace Prize And Here’s Why They Each Deserve To Win

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Four Mexican Children Have Been Nominated For The Children’s Peace Prize And Here’s Why They Each Deserve To Win

Yasin Yagci / Getty Images

Mexico is celebrating four compassionate children who have each been nominated for a prestigious international award, for their dedication to solving issues within their own communities.

Three kids from Oaxaca and one from Sinaloa have been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Award – which is award to children from around the world who have made an effort to promote the rights of children and improve the situation of vulnerable minors.

Each of Mexico’s four nominees have done so much for their communities – and the world at large – that it’s going to be a close contest to decide who is the ultimate winner.

Four kids from Mexico are in the running for a prestigious international peace award.

Among 138 children from 42 countries, four Mexican kids have been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Award, which is awarded to minors who have made an effort to promote the rights of children and improve the situation of vulnerable minors.

The award comes with a €100,000 (about $117,000 USD) prize which can be used to invest in the solutions they’ve been championing. In fact, one of last year’s winners was climate change activist Greta Thunberg and peace advocate Divina Maloum from Cameroon.

On this occasion, Mexico’s nominees are counting on the win and include three nominees from Oaxaca and one from the state of Sinaloa.

Each of the children nominated have done incredible work to help solve issues in their communities.

In order to be nominated for the award and to be considered for the top prize, children must demonstrate their commitment to making a “special effort to promote children’s rights and better the situation of vulnerable children,” according to the Children’s Peace Prize website.

It goes without saying that each of Mexico’s four nominees have already checked off each of those requirements, with each of them making major advancements in issues that affect their communities, their country, and children from around the world.

In fact, the issues this group of children have been taking on range from combatting bullying and domestic violence, to increasing access to education, protecting young women and girls from endemic violence, and combatting the global Covid-19 pandemic.

One nominee from Oaxaca founded her own foundation to help advance the issues she cares about.

In an interview with Milenio, Georgina Martínez, 17, said that the award represents a great opportunity.

“This year we are among the 142 nominees from 42 different countries and I believe that without a doubt there is a commitment from all of us as Mexican children and young people to win it to continue fighting for our dreams,” she said.

Martínez, who won the national youth award in 2017, has been working for the rights of children and young people for 10 years through various campaigns, such as “Boys and Girls to the Rescue”, which focused on helping vulnerable minors combat bullying and domestic violence. She also supported the Nutrikids campaign that fed minors in precarious situations, worked to build classrooms in impoverished communities, and has also been a speaker at various conferences.

“My activism began when I was 9 years old, when I participated in the ninth parliament of the girls and boys of Mexico, where I was a children’s legislator. We spent a week at the Chamber of Deputies to work in favor of children’s rights. There I realized that my voice could be heard and that I could be the voice of many children who perhaps did not have access to many of their rights such as education and health,” she told Milenio.

Young Georgina Martínez is in her last year of high school, and she has in mind to continue working in the present and the future to continue being a person and agent of change.

Martínez’s brother is also in the running for his work against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jorge Martínez, the 13-year-old brother of Georgina, considers it a great honor to represent Oaxaca in the contest.

“I was nominated for my masks project, which consists of using 3D printing to print universal headbands and make acrylic masks, which I donate to hospitals,” he told Milenio.

“I started by making 100 masks, which I financed with my savings, and donated them to the children’s hospital to help hospitalized children so that they wouldn’t be infected with Covid-19. The project went viral allowing me to grow the project and it soon gained international attention,” he added.

Many of his neighbors and friends consider him to be an actual genius but he’s far too modest to take on that title. He said that “the truth is, all this technology is something that I like a lot and it’s fun to be able to work in fields that you enjoy.”

Martínez also shared his plans for the future, telling Milenio that he’d love to move to China to be able to work in robotics and engineering.

Oaxaca also has a third nominee in the global contest.

Oaxaca’s third nominee for the prize is a young ballet dancer, activist, and storyteller – Aleida Ruiz Sosa – who is a defender of women’s rights. She’s currently studying online as she finishes high school and plans to pursue a law degree, in addition to advancing her dance career.

She’s been a longstanding voice for women.

“Since I was very young I have worked hard to help my community. I have a collection of stories called “Rainbow”, that speaks out about violence against women. In fact, I worked with the Attorney General of Oaxaca, and the main thing is that all the proceeds from the sale of these stories will go to the young victims of femicide,” she told Milenio.

Also nominated is 16-year-old Enrique Ángel Figueroa Salazar of Mazatlán, who is passionate about children’s rights and wishes to change local, federal and global societies so that children can live a life free of violence.

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

Damen Wood / Getty Images

Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.

But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.

Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.

Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.

Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.

In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.

In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.

“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”

However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.

Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form. 

The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.

Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.

Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.

According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.

Participants will be able to learn about the voting process and what will be on the next ballot during the “Vontando Por Mi Familia: Enterate para que vas a votar” event. The event, hosted in partnership with Mi Familia, will be presented in Spanish.

A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.

Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.

The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.

Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost. 

“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.

Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.

“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”

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