The success story of undocumented immigrant Larissa Martinez is a slap in the face to Trump supporters

In face of the nativist rhetoric and heated debate over immigration, the “coming out” of Larissa Martinez is a fresh reminder of the need to facilitate the access of a higher education to undocumented students.

Martinez’s story is notable for the many struggles she had to face. Fleeing from Mexico City with her mother from an abusive father. Taking care of her younger sister while her mother worked to maintain her family. On top of that she still managed to be the valedictorian of her class along with a full scholarship ride to Yale.

This is a slap in the face to Trump and all his followers of course. Not a rapist but an honors student. Not an “anchor baby” but an individual who beat the odds. Not a snake but an outstanding American.

Martinez’s story is one of those exceptional, I guess you could say, “Obama” stories. While she is an inspiration for a group of people that share a difficult situation, her story should also bring forward attention to the plight of undocumented students.

Every year there are approximately 65,000 undocumented students who graduate high school, out of which only 5-10% go on to college. Those who go to college have to face the stress and anxiety of having to finance for their own education, and often end up dropping out. In the worst cases, a lot of undocumented students end dropping out of high school because of the lack of opportunity, and are vulnerable to gang violence and other social maladies.

As if it weren’t bad enough, a recent study shows that there is discrimination in our public school systems for the 770,000 undocumented students looking to enroll from K-12. It is worth mentioning that many of these youth are refugees who are fleeing the endemic violence of Central America. As if it weren’t enough, the recent ICE raids in response to the 2014 Central American refugee crisis has many families with undocumented status in fear of enrolling their children (despite DACA, Jorge Ramos calls President Obama “Deporter in Chief” for a reason).

There is an injustice occurring against many of these undocumented youth. Most of it has been caused by the indifference of our leaders in Congress, who have failed to pass meaningful immigration reform for the past decade.

Of course, public opinion has a lot to do with this issue as well. As can be seen in the social media reaction to Larissa Martinez, many people aren’t too happy with the idea of an undocumented Mexican immigrant “taking the place” of an American citizen. And while the Republican party has for long scapegoated undocumented immigrants as hurting the economy and becoming a tax burden, evidence shows that the presence of undocumented immigrants benefits the economy overall. In addition, allowing undocumented students greater access to a higher education could mean better jobs for these students, which will result in more taxable income.

So indeed, people like Larissa Martinez have much to contribute to this country. Every time we deny the opportunity of education to another undocumented student, we are discouraging a student from having a better life, that can contribute to the well being of our nation.

Despite this, there are still those who say, “So What?”, and then give you a lecture on how we live in a nation of laws and these young ones need to get in line like the rest. Therefore, they don’t deserve the same opportunities and rights that belong to American citizens.

It is heartless, and at the same time, unreasonable to look at many of these youth and not give them the same opportunities of success as any other American child. Mind you, many of these students didn’t come to the US through their own will. And while on paper, the United States may not be their country, culturally, they are a part of this country as any other American citizen.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “many people aren’t too happy with the idea of an undocumented Mexican immigrant “taking the place’ of an American citizen.”

    This is part of it, but I think a big part of that reaction has been elicited by undocumented immigrants themselves, or rather, their proponents. This group has gone from one of appealing to the country to recognize the impossible situation they’ve been placed in to one of utter arrogance. It’s like someone who steals bread to feed his starving family going from trying to point out how the system failed him to saying, “F you, I’ll take the bread if I want it.” Yes, the system has failed (many, not all) undocumented immigrants but laws were broken on their side to. There seems to not only zero acknowledgement of that, but now, downright arrogance. Interesting that you ended your article by saying these children are just as much a part of this country as any *American citizen*. What about the many, many, immigrant families that came here legally and have spent 10+ years following the unbelievably complex and restrictive immigration rules? I guess denying them opportunities is neither heartless nor unreasonable.

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