Lara, set to attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall, celebrated her graduation from high school by posting a since deleted Tweet that read, “Valedictorian, 4.5GPA, full tuition paid for at UT, 13 cords/medals, nice legs, oh, and I’m undocumented” concluding with a set of emojis including the Mexican flag. Lara’s tweet went viral and she received support from total strangers. Twitter user @fersillero tweeted to her, saying “I don’t know you personally, but I just wanted to tell you that I am extremely proud of you! Just seeing your post made me cry”.
Unfortunately, however, not all responses were positive. Lara was sent tweets following her post featuring screenshots of tips to ICE being submitted, along with threats of deportation from various users. Some Twitter users escalated the nature of their threats, going so far as to complain to the CVS Pharmacy Lara works at. Lara, who never intended on her Tweet going viral, eventually stated that she just wanted the attention to “go away” and to be left alone.
Lara, who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, later stated that she has a Social Security Number, pays taxes, and that she hopes that will become a permanent resident of the United States.
The same day Lara shared her story, another Texas valedictorian shared her undocumented status, only from her podium. Larissa Martinez opened up about her immigration status in her valedictorian speech. “I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States,” she said. Very few of Martinez’s classmates and peers knew of her status. Martinez, who will be attending Yale University in the fall, directly address Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rampant racism and xenophobia in her speech, saying “America can be great again without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice”, which earned her a standing ovation from her audience.
Both Lara and Martinez are actively seeking to become American citizens, but more importantly, they both openly identified themselves as undocumented. Lara later said that she Tweeted her immigration status publicly because she wanted the challenges she had faced to be recognized. By sharing their status, these two young Texas women can serve as inspirations for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States and serve as proof for what there is to be gained through immigration, not lost.
-- Caty Seger