Undocumented Texas Valedictorian Talks About Her Speech, Journey To Citizenship

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McKINNEY (1080 KRLD) – After her shocking revelation at graduation, McKinney Boyd valedictorian Larissa Martinez is addressing the fallout from her speech, and about her family’s journey to become citizens.

Last week Martinez stood in front of her class and revealed to them that she is in the country illegally.

“I was so nervous to say it,” she says. “But I’ve gotten so many positive responses. And most negative comments haven’t come to me directly, I’ve only seen them on videos. People can have their own opinions. It won’t stop me speaking up.”

Martinez, her mom and sister moved from Mexico City in 2010. Martinez says they applied for American citizenship before they ever left Mexico.

“We had family living here already, so we applied through them,” she says. “At first they told us it would only take a few years. And they said the process goes faster if you live in the country, so we figured we could move and the years would go quicker.”

Almost seven years after applying, Martinez and her family are still waiting for their citizenship.

“I don’t want people to say that we did this the wrong way, or that we all do this the wrong way,” she says. “The immigration system is broken. I wish people would inform themselves of the process before judging, because plenty of people are trying to come here the right way.”

While at Boyd, Martinez held a near perfect GPA and graduated with high honors. She has a full ride to Yale, where she plans to enter their medical program.

Martinez says Yale knew of her situation during the application process, and has received several emails of support from the university.

“People were complaining that my scholarship takes money away from Americans, but that isn’t true,” she says. “Yale sees undocumented immigrants as international students. They use money allocated for international students towards undocumented immigrants. So we’re not taking anyone’s money away because it was never going to them in the first place.”

Martinez says she hopes her situation will help others see the need for immigration reform. “It’s easy to say let’s build a wall, but in reality nothing will change until the system gets fixed.”

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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