Undocumented Texas Valedictorian Should Be Applauded, Not Demonized

Graduation, caps, gownsA Texas high school valedictorian sent a tweet bragging about her outstanding achievements, and immediately became an unlikely flash point for the immigration debate in our country. She is bright, beautiful, and undocumented. And thanks to our country's toxic climate for immigrants, she's drawing enormous criticism. 

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It was a moment of well-earned pride for 17-year-old Mayte. She's since deleted the post, and her entire Twitter account for that matter, but here's a retweet of what started it all.

It reads "Valedictorian, 4.5GPA, full tuition paid for at UT, 13 cords/medals, nice legs, oh and I'm undocumented." It was followed with several emojis, one of which was the Mexican flag.

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Of course, for millions of Americans who feel like "illegal" immigrants are getting a free ride at their expense, a girl appearing to be proud of getting an actual free ride to a state school really got people upset.

Here was just one of the angry responses.

Some used memes of Donald Trump, who has spent plenty of his free media time on cable news channels to preach his particular brand of immigrant hate with his plans to build "The Wall" and calling Mexicans "rapists."

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The hate speech is resonating with plenty of Americans. Here's a particularly disgusting depiction of an undocumented Mexican immigrant someone shared in response to the girl's pride in who she is and what she's accomplished. 

Now Mayte is apologizing, saying she didn't mean any offense, according to the Associated Press.

"My tweet wasn't meant to mock anyone," she told the Austin American-Statesman. "I just wanted to show that no matter what barriers you have in front of you, you can still succeed."

The audacity.

She added that one of the toughest things for kids like her is dealing with "the stereotype of people like me."

She's one of millions of kids who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) immigration status, also often referred to as "Dreamers." It's legal for kids to be here and attend school and their status can be renewed every two years. 

She committed no crime. She was brought to the country illegally as a child. Now she's here under legal status. At least have the facts before you decide someone is a criminal.

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There was another girl this week named Larissa Martinez, also her high school's valedictorian, who during her graduation speech revealed her undocumented status. She's headed to Yale on scholarship next year.

These are America's kids and they're stepping out of the shadows to claim their place in our society. It's up to us to decide whether as a country we're going to demonize these bright, hardworking kids or get them busy helping to build America's future.

Looking at these gorgeous, accomplished girls, I can't help but feel a bit of their own mothers' pride beaming off their daughters. I know that many consider their actions criminal and immoral, but all I see in these two bright young ladies is the result of their mother's tireless efforts to give their daughters a brighter future than the one they had in Mexico.

I can only imagine how their mama joy bubble was burst by the ugly way their kids are being treated by those who don't know or understand how precious their girls are. And how hard they've worked against the odds, with less than the other kids in their schools, and climbed their way to the top of the heap.

If no one else will say it, I will. Their mothers did a hell of a job. Felicidades.

And those who say just "get in line" or that legal immigration is a viable alternative need to realize that there is no path to legal immigration for millions. Our immigration system is broken and the real losers are the American people who are missing out on the full contributions of incredible people who, despite having the disadvantages of undocumented status, have managed to rise like cream to the very top of their peer groups. Why wouldn't we want these girls as part of America's future? Are we really so angry and shortsighted to work against our own national interests by throwing away our most valuable minds? 

And even if you can't embrace these children, at the very least please don't criminalize them. They deserve better from a country of immigrants that should know better.

 

Image via baipooh/Shutterstock

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