Life after deportation for U.S.-born children

(CBS News) TIJUANA, Mexico - The U.S. Border Patrol announced a new strategy Tuesday for catching illegal immigrants from Mexico: using improved intelligence to target repeat offenders.

These days, though, many Mexicans heading home outnumbers those coming to the U.S. Many of them had been deported, the result of stepped-up enforcement. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports what happens when families are forced to leave.

Every day Patricia Herrera walks her three children -- 12-year-old Yasmin, 10-year-old Elizabeth, and 8-year-old Vicente -- to school.

But these days, this familiar routine is on unfamiliar terrain. This family from Salt Lake City -- these American children -- have been uprooted to Tijuana, Mexico. These English-speaking children struggle to learn in Spanish.

"It's different and it's hard for me to understand what they're saying here," said one of the Herrera children.

Right across from the house they share with relatives is the fortified fence that marks the U.S. border. When Patricia was a baby, her mother sneaked her across. She grew up thinking she was a U.S citizen until she was stopped one day by federal agents. Caught a second time last October, she was deported. To keep her family intact, she brought her children -- U.S. citizens -- over in February.

"I was sad," said one of the Herrera children.

"I was scared, I was shock, I was nervous," said another.

Patricia Herrera said she is not adjusting well. "I never thought it would come to this, but it has. And it's hard for them."

Four years ago, Tijuana schools started seeing a steady flow of American students whose parents had been deported. When the U.S. economy fell into deeper recession, that flow became a flood. The schools are overwhelmed.

This school, Francisco Villa, is a prime example of what's going on. Two years ago, there were no U.S. students enrolled. Last year, six enrolled; this year, 35. In all Tijuana schools, 2,000 students from the U.S. have enrolled so far this year.

Most feel trapped between two worlds. Cesar was born in Washington State. "I feel more American, he said, "because all my life I was over there."

Jasleen was born in California. Whitaker asked her how is it different in Mexico than the U.S. "Like over there is cleaner," she said. "Here, it's kind of dangerous, like when it's dark."

Patricia can't work because she can't speak Spanish well enough. She studies every night with her children. She survives on money her family sends from Utah every week.

"I live right here on the borderline too," she said. "And it's hard to know that I look over there and [I say], 'Oh, my God, if I could only get through there.' But I know I can't. So I have to accept and learn to live my life here."

It's a hard lesson many families from north of the border are having to learn.

  • Bill Whitaker

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