Texas Valedictorian under fire after bragging about scholarship, undocumented status

Mayte Lara Ibarra’s tweet about her academic success and residency status sparked controversy online. (Photo: Twitter via NBC)
Mayte Lara Ibarra’s tweet about her academic success and residency status sparked controversy online. (Photo: Twitter via NBC)

A Texas high school valedictorian’s tweet boasting about her impressive academic accomplishments and undocumented status landed her in the middle of an online firestorm over immigration.

Mayte Lara Ibarra shot off the polarizing tweet last Friday after graduating from Crockett High School in Austin.

“Valedictorian, 4.5GPA, full tuition paid for at UT, 13 cords and medals, nice legs, oh and I’m undocumented,” she wrote.

The tweet included several graduation pictures and a few emojis: a medal, the Mexican flag, Hook ’em horns for the University of Texas, and a graduation cap. It swiftly went viral, receiving more than 400 retweets and nearly 20,000 likes before her account (@maytelara29) was deactivated.

What was probably intended to be another innocuous graduation post proved deeply controversial — drawing censure and praise.

Conservatives, namely supporters of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, were inflamed that an undocumented immigrant was getting a free ride on the University of Texas, presumably on the taxpayer’s dime. Much of the outrage invoked Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

A tweet from a person claiming to have immigrated into the U.S. legally included an apparent tip about the young woman to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Liberals were enthusiastic that she was succeeding and demonstrating that not all undocumented immigrants conform to negative stereotypes. Many encouraged Ibarra to hold her head up high amid the barrage of insults.

Though she would have saved herself a lot of grief had she left her immigration status off the tweet, this information will not affect her admission or scholarship at the public research university.

Gary Susswein, a spokesperson for UT Austin, said in a statement that residency status does not play a role in admissions and financial aid decisions.

“Federal privacy laws prevent the university from discussing individual students,” Susswein said. “In accordance with state law, Texas universities — including the University of Texas schools — have for decades granted two-semester tuition waivers to valedictorians of Texas public high schools, without regard to their residency status. State law also does not distinguish between documented and undocumented graduates of Texas high schools in admissions and financial aid decisions. University policies reflect that law.”

At the graduation ceremony, Ibarra, who was also senior class president, led her Crockett High School classmates through the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag and one to the Texas state flag. The young woman encouraged her Crockett High School classmates to stay optimistic about the future in her valedictorian speech.

“Look back with pride on a job well done. Look forward with excitement to what lies ahead,” she said. “Celebrate this moment because it’s yours to enjoy. And remember, what is coming is better than what is gone.”

Ibarra could not be reached for comment.

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