Earlier this month, two Texas valedictorians publicly expressed their excitement about their accomplishments, as any proud young valedictorian might.
But their expressions drew more than the usual attention. Mayte Lara Ibarra of Austin tweeted: “Valedictorian, 4.5 GPA, full tuition paid for at UT, 13 cords/medals, nice legs, oh and I’m undocumented,”
A few hours north in McKinney, Larissa Martinez, who’s been admitted to Yale in the fall, used her valedictory speech to reveal that she, too, is undocumented. When the speech hit YouTube, like the tweet before it, the internet went wild.
Many are demanding the deportation of the two, often in pretty uncivil language. Now, a congressman from Fort Worth not only plans to commend the two from the floor of the House this week – he’s also offering legislation to help others like them.
“I just thought it was really unfair for the attacks that these two young women were going under because they want to pursue higher education,” he says, “which we encourage everyone in our country to normally do.”
Texas has a mixed record on admitting undocumented students, Veasey says. Texas’s Dream Act, the first in the country, allows undocumented students to go to state universities and pay in-state tuition, but students around the country aren’t allowed to be admitted at all.
“When I go out into my district in Fort Worth, I meet high-achieving students that are undocumented, come from undocumented families and they want the opportunity to have a higher education,” he says. “That ought to be something we’re for – because we’re talking about young people that are going to add something very valuable to the American economy.”
Veasey is also sponsoring a bill to make it easier for students with undocumented parents to apply for financial aid. Parents can use a tax ID number rather than a social security number.
“These kids are U.S. students – these are U.S. citizens that we’re talking about,” he says.
Post prepared by Hannah McBride.