A graduating high school student in Texas gave an emotional commencement speech last week in which she revealed to classmates and parents that she’s an undocumented immigrant. Larissa Martinez, the valedictorian for the McKinney Boyd High School 2016 graduating class took to the dais last Friday and started in rather pedestrian fashion, cracking a few jokes about high school life and thanking some of her closest friends. When Martinez thanked her mother, she hinted that something deeper was coming in her remarks. “While moms metaphorically move mountains for their children, you literally moved countries for my sister and me,” Martinez said. Video of the speech surfaced online this week and began making news due to the courageous nature of the emotional address and some of the backlash it’s received online.
Then, Martinez pivoted as she took on a more serious tone. “Let me be frank. I’m not going to stand up here and give you the Hallmark version of a valedictory speech. Instead, I’d like to offer you a different kind of speech.” Martinez went on to dispel the “half truths” that people might perceive in her seemingly picture perfect life. “I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States,” Martinez revealed to her classmates, adding that she and her mother and sister left Mexico to flee her alcoholic father who was abusive.
Martinez went on to issue a statement of support for all types of immigrants — both legal citizens and undocumented immigrants — and sang the praises of those who come to America in search of a better life. “People with dreams, aspirations, hopes and loved ones, people like me, people who have become a part of American society and way of life, and who yearn to help make America great again without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice,” she said. “Undocumented immigrants are people too,” she told the audience.
Martinez will attend Yale University in the fall on a full scholarship. Not surprisingly, her speech drew high praise on social media, and criticism too, as some called for Immigration and Customs to arrest her.
Watch her entire address below. Her speech begins at the 21:45 mark:
Read the full story at NBC News.