Texas High School Valedictorians Come Out as Undocumented Immigrants, Face Backlash

The speech at McKinney Boyd High School's graduation wasn't a typical one.

ByABC News
June 9, 2016, 1:52 PM

— -- Larissa Martinez warned the audience at McKinney Boyd High School's graduation ceremony this week that she was not going to give a typical valedictory speech.

"I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States," she said at the ceremony, a video of which was captured by the school district in McKinney, Texas.

In fact, two Texas high school valedictorians have announced they are undocumented immigrants. Martinez revealed her status to her classmates and received a standing ovation, while Mayte Lara Ibarra of David Crockett High School in Austin made a post on Twitter, and received a barrage of tweets either attacking or supporting her.

In her speech, Martinez thanked her mother for her strength and explained the difficulty of her decision to come forward.

"After all of these years I have finally mustered up the courage to stand before you and share a struggle I have had to deal with each and every day," she said. "We are here without official documentation because the U.S. immigration system is broken, and it has forced many families to live in fear. I myself have been waiting for seven years for my application to even be processed."

Martinez described her decision to reveal herself as part of the important discussion around immigration in the U.S., and even referenced Donald Trump, though not by name, saying immigrants are people who "yearn to help make America great again without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice."

Hatred and prejudice, however, is exactly what Martinez and Ibarra experienced. In Ibarra's case, after posting her announcement to Twitter. She was called names like "scumbag" and worse, and Twitter users accused her of stealing scholarships from American students, and called for her deportation. Ibarra's Twitter account has since been removed, but the conversation around her has gone viral with the hashtag #MayteLara.

About 65,000 undocumented students graduate from American high schools every year, according to The College Board, the non-profit organization behind AP courses and SAT tests. In fact, The College Board states that while some institutions have policies against admitting undocumented students, "there is no state or federal law that prohibits the admission of undocumented immigrants to U.S. colleges."