McKinney Valedictorian's Viral Speech Inspired Legislation To Aid Undocumented Students
Five stories that have North Texas talking: A U.S. Congressman from Fort Worth introduced a new law to help undocumented students get into college; Six Flags could boost Saudi Arabia’s economy; life is harder for kids in Texas; and more.
Earlier this month, Yale-bound McKinney Boyd High School valedictorian Larissa Martinez outed herself as an undocumented immigrant in her graduation speech. In response, a U.S. Congressman from Fort Worth not only praised Martinez from the House floor but also wrote new legislation to help students like her go to college.
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U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who represents Texas’ 33rd congressional district, introduced theAmerican Dream Promise Act, or HR 5503 Thursday to prohibit discrimination against undocumented students applying to public universities, “who otherwise qualify for admittance.”
Martinez’s big reveal went viral and garnered heavy backlash on social media, some praising her bravery and others demanding for her deportation. Veasey told Texas Standard:
“When I go out into my district in Fort Worth, I meet high-achieving students that are undocumented, come from undocumented families and they want the opportunity to have a higher education. That ought to be something we’re for – because we’re talking about young people that are going to add something very valuable to the American economy.”
Veasey is also sponsoring the Fairness in Financial Aid Act, or HR 5502, to make it easier for students with undocumented parents to apply for financial aid, allowing them to use a tax ID number instead of social security number. [Texas Standard]
- Six Flags’ newest park might be opening in Saudi Arabia. With its oil economy suffering, Saudi Arabia is looking into tourism for a financial boost, according to The Washington Post. Six Flags executive John Duffey announced Monday the amusement park giant will invest in Saudi Arabia. The process of establishing and running a theme park would encounter several cultural obstacles, though: Saudi Arabia has an ultra-conservative reputation, strict codes for male-female conduct and no tourist visas issued available to non-Muslims, according to The Post. However, the kingdom is following a plan to increase tourism spending from $8 billion to $46 billion by 2020. [The Washington Post, Reuters]
- It’s hard being a kid, especially in Texas, an annual report found. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2016 Kids Count assessment showed Texas slipped two spots to 43rd in a national ranking of top states to be a kid. Texas has lingered in the bottom 10 states in recent years, despite a steady economy and a fast-growing, diverse population. The Associated Press reported: “About 784,000 Texas children, or 11 percent of the youth population, lacks health insurance — tied with Alaska for worst in the country. That tally remains low despite the number of uninsured children falling by 400,000 since 2008.” More than 1.7 million kids statewide — about one in four — live in poverty. [The Associated Press]
- Trump’s campaign announced an evangelical advisory board Tuesday, and a Dallas preacher is on it. First Baptist Church senior pastor Robert Jeffress will be one of 24 people, including former congresswoman Michele Bachmann (one of two women) on Trump’s new board to advise him on issues pertaining to evangelicals and “other people of faith in America,” according a campaign email. The members were not asked to endorse Trump, according to the release, Jeffress praised Trump during a campaign rally in Fort Worth ahead of the Texas primary. Other Texas members include Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Southlake and James Robison, founder of Life OUTREACH International. See the full list. [The Dallas Morning News, Politico]
- Remember Chewbacca mom? Candace Payne, the North Texas woman who laughed straight through a four-minute Facebook live video, wearing a plastic Chewbacca mask, sitting in a Kohl’s parking lot? Well, her life has been a whirlwind since the May 19 video went viral. Now, she’s got her own official bobblehead from Hasbro. GuideLive reported: “Payne and her new action figure share more than just looks however, the figure also features 13 quotes from Payne's video including her laugh along with the famous lines, "I'm such a happy Chewbacca," and "That's not me making that noise, it's the mask." A happy Chewbacca, indeed. [GuideLive]