A Texas high school valedictorian who is set to attend Yale with a full scholarship revealed in her graduation speech that she is one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
Larissa Martinez graduated with a 4.95 GPA after moving to the U.S. from Mexico at age 12, according to the Daily Mail.
She began her speech by thanking friends and family, before noting that she wasn’t going to give the “traditional hallmark” valedictory address.
“When people see me up here ... they seem to think I've got my life figured out. At the age of 11, I was nothing but the girl with an abusive and alcoholic father,” Martinez said, the Mail reported.
“A girl whose only dream was to become an American and who thought moving countries would solve all of the problems in her life,” she added.
She noted how her mother had been a strong support.
“While mothers move mountains for their children, you literally moved countries for my sister and me,” she added.
Martinez arrived in the U.S. with her mother and sister in 2010 on tourist visas, reports WFAA. They applied for citizenship almost seven years ago but it has not yet been processed.
“The most important part of the debate, and the part most overlooked, is the fact that immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are people too,” Martinez told her classmates.
“People with dreams, aspirations, hopes and loved ones,” she added.
“People like me. People who have become a part of the American society and way of life and who yearn to help make America great again -- without the construction of a wall based on hatred and prejudice,” she added, in what was a reference to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“We are here without documentation because the US immigration system is broken. And it has forced many families to live in fear,” Martinez continued.
Martinez explained how her immigrant background meant she confronted many challenges.
“Often my intelligence was questioned due to my background,” she said.
“I feel like I owe it to all of you to be honest and I owe it to myself,” Martinez said.
She told WFAA that prior to giving the speech, only 10 people at school were aware of her undocumented status.
The audience responded to her address with a standing ovation.
Martinez intends to enter the pre-med program at Yale and become a neurosurgeon.