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How In Texas, Two Undocumented Immigrants from Mexico became Valedictorians

Yale and the University of Texas have issued statements saying the young women's scholarships are not in jeopardy

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  • Martinez said her family applied for citizenship shortly after arriving in the U.S. and have been waiting since then for their application to be processed
  • Two high school valedictorians in the southern U.S. state of Texas have revealed they are undocumented immigrants from Mexico.
  • The Yale-bound student said what is often overlooked in the immigrant debate is “the fact that immigrants, undocumented or otherwise are people, too

Two high school valedictorians in the southern U.S. state of Texas have revealed they are undocumented immigrants from Mexico.

Both have received college scholarships – one to Yale, the other to the University of Texas.

Larissa Martinez came to the United States in 2010 with her mother and sister, she said, to escape from her alcoholic and abusive father. The three now live in a one-bedroom apartment in McKinley, Texas.

“I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows,” the teenager said in her address to her fellow graduates who did not know about her status.

The Yale-bound student said what is often overlooked in the immigrant debate is “the fact that immigrants, undocumented or otherwise are people, too…. People with dreams, aspirations, hopes and loved ones.  People like me.”

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Martinez also took a swipe at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who has said if he becomes president he will build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep out Mexicans.  He has characterized such migrants as criminals and rapists.

“America can be great again without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice,” Martinez said in her address to her classmates.

Martinez said her family applied for citizenship shortly after arriving in the U.S. and have been waiting since then for their application to be processed.

Unlike Martinez, another valedictorian, this time in Austin, Texas, waited until after her speech to reveal her undocumented status.

Militia Groups Called to Texas Border to Halt Invasion of Illegal Immigrants. Image source: www.dcclothesline.com
Militia Groups Called to Texas Border to Halt Invasion of Illegal Immigrants. Image source: www.dcclothesline.com

Mayte Lara Ibarra shared the information in a tweet:  ” Valedictorian, 4.5 GPA, full tuition paid for at UT…nice legs, oh and I’m undocumented.”

Ibarra says she came to the U.S. from Mexico illegally when she was about two years old, but has Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allows children in the U.S. illegally to request deportation deferral. DACA does not, however, provide a path to citizenship, but does allow people to work and receive Social Security cards.

She has received a lot of criticism because she included a Mexican flag in her tweet about her status.

She told The Statesman newspaper “The only reason I used that emoji was to show that I’m proud of my heritage and to show that we can do great things.”

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“The reason I posted that tweet was to show others that you can accomplish anything, regardless of the obstacles you have in front of you,” she told The Statesman.

Both students have received encouragement and criticism on social media.  Some people believe the teenagers are breaking the law and prohibiting an American student from attending college.  Others have praised the students’ hard work.

Yale and the University of Texas have issued statements saying the young women’s scholarships are not in jeopardy. (VOA)

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  • AJ Krish

    The struggle faced by immigrants is hardly noticed.Overcoming all the challenges ,these students have indeed shown true determination. The stand of US government on undocumented immigrants must be changed. It was good to hear that even after all the trouble ,their scholarships are not in jeopardy.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    It was good to hear that their scholarships are safe

  • AJ Krish

    The struggle faced by immigrants is hardly noticed.Overcoming all the challenges ,these students have indeed shown true determination. The stand of US government on undocumented immigrants must be changed. It was good to hear that even after all the trouble ,their scholarships are not in jeopardy.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    It was good to hear that their scholarships are safe

Next Story

Yellowstone National Park: A magnificent place to explore

America’s first national park – Yellowstone. It's also the first national park in the world, established by Congress in 1872, even before the National Park Service was set up.

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Yellowstone National Park: A magnificent place to explore
More than half the world's geysers are in Yellowstone National Park. VOA

January 2, 2018: When you think about America’s national parks, what probably comes to mind first is America’s first national park – Yellowstone. It’s also the first national park in the world, established by Congress in 1872, even before the National Park Service was set up.

Yellowstone sits on an active volcano, the source of the more than 10,000 geothermal features in the park, including more than half the world’s geysers. National Parks traveler Mikah Meyer made sure he caught the eruption of the best-known of its 500 geysers – Old Faithful, which shoots a column of superheated water up to 42 meters into the air, every 60 to 110 minutes.

“They have geysers that range from Old Faithful to these geysers that are basically holes in the ground that give a glimpse into what the bubbling boiling earth underneath is like.”

And some of what bubbles up is mud. Mikah describes these ‘mudpots’ as a witch’s cauldron. “They look like some sort of witch’s concoction because you’re just walking along this boardwalk and suddenly to your left and your right you’ve got these giant mud pools that are bubbling up in random spots, and so it really is a place where you can see the earth’s underbelly.”

The thousands of steam vents in Yellowstone give off a powerful sulfur odor.
The thousands of steam vents in Yellowstone give off a powerful sulfur odor. VOA

He noted a constant feature of the park — steam. “Anywhere you are in the park it always seems like somewhere in your 360° view you’ll see some steam rising out of the ground.” These fumaroles, or steam vents, are the hottest hydrothermal features in the park, with temperatures as high as 138°Celsius.

Yellowstone is also home to thermophile microbes, which thrive in the hot springs. Trillions of these microorganisms are grouped together, so they appear as masses of color. Since different types of thermophiles live at different temperatures within a hot spring, they produce what looks like a rainbow in the water.

Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone's largest hot spring. It's about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep.
Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring. It’s about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep. VOA

And it’s not just hot water shooting up… Yellowstone also has 350 identified waterfalls that tumble down more than 4 1/2 meters. The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River is the tallest cascade in the park. At 94 meters, it’s twice as high as Niagara Falls.

An abundance of wildlife

Many of the more than 4 million visitors to Yellowstone each year come to see one of the symbols of the American West. Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times, and the park’s herd of 4,000 to 5,000 animals represents the last-known wild bison population in the world.

Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone's largest hot spring. It's about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep.
Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring. It’s about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep. VOA

Mikah said they really catch visitors’ eyes. “I have this video of what I call a Yellowstone traffic jam which is basically anytime there’s any sort of animal on the side of the road, everyone seems to stop their car and take pictures or pull over and it’s an instant traffic jam!”

But bison aren’t the only iconic animals in the park. Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, including predators like grey wolves and bears, and large herbivores, like big horn sheep, elk and moose.

Two decades ago, 41 wild gray wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released in Yellowstone National Park to start a recovery effort. Today, the park is home to more than 100 animals in eleven packs. (NPS/Jim Peaco)
Two decades ago, 41 wild gray wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released in Yellowstone National Park to start a recovery effort. Today, the park is home to more than 100 animals in eleven packs. (NPS/Jim Peaco). VOA

There are nearly 300 species of birds, 16 species of fish, five species of amphibians, and six species of reptiles.

But the main draw remains the regular eruption of Old Faithful. “If you’re on the hunt for geysers,” Mikah concludes, “you really can’t do much better than Yellowstone National Park.” (VOA)