- First, I pointed to the dismal academics at North Miami High School, alma mater of Daniela Palaez, the most celebrated “undocumented valedictorian,” as an example of how being valedictorian at a low quality school may not require that much skill.
I could be accused of cherry-picking one example to be indicative of a larger class—kind of like how the Main Stream Media will cherry pick a few alleged valedictorians to be indicative of illegal aliens.
- Second, I also expressed skepticism that some of these “undocumented valedictorians were actually valedictorians, without coming up with a specific example other than a story about honor students from a 1987 novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities.
So now, in the interest of fairness, I have researched as many other “undocumented valedictorians” I could find. I found articles discussing unnamed undocumented valedictorians (I`m an Illegal Immigrant at Harvard, Newsweek, November 27, 2010), and a New York Times article about a named undocumented valedictorian from almost 30 years ago, Harold Fernandez, who apparently has since had a successful career as an MD: An Undocumented Princetonian By Joseph Berger, December 29, 2009.
However, I’ve only found five (5) actual undocumented valedictorians who came out of the shadows to give us their real names.
Of those cases, two involved students who came from schools with dismal academic records. In the three other cases, I found another valedictorian who graduated from the same high school the same year.
In other words, these three “undocumented valedictorians” are, well, undocumented.
- Vidal Tapia, International High School, Paterson NJ.
According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, illegal alien “Vidal Tapia is by all accounts International High School’s brightest prospect… he carries a 4.0 GPA, a National Honor Society membership and a slew of community service hours.” [Paterson high school valedictorian faces 10-year ban from U.S. due to immigration status, March 11, 2011]
But according to US News and World Report, in 2010-11 there were 66 12th graders at International High School, compared to 110 10th graders, suggesting a very high drop-out rate. The graduation rate was only 53%. The school was 66% Hispanic, 29% black, 4% white, and 1% Asian. 72% of the students were “economically disadvantaged”. Only 33% of the students were “Proficient” in Math. US News did not give the reading Proficiency rate
- Solanlly Canas: High School in the Community
The New Haven Independent ran a sob story about Solanlly Canas’ failure to get financial aid for college because of her illegal status. [New Haven Rallies For Solanlly & Chastity, by Melissa Bailey, May 3, 2013] The story had a happy ending—taxpayers and fellow students now subsidize her education. (I should also add that Miss Canas, like the Dr. Fernandez mentioned above, is Colombian and appears to be of largely Spanish ancestry and thus not representative of the average illegal immigrant population.)
The Independent says Canas was valedictorian at the “High School in the Community” in New Haven. Though designated as a “magnet school”, its senior class of 55 is just over half the size of its freshman class of 97, suggesting a high drop-out rate. Overall, it’s 43% black, 34% Hispanic, 22% white, and 1% Asian. Some 77% of students are economically disadvantaged. Only 51% are proficient at reading and 32% are proficient at Math.
- Henry Mejia, Yorktown High School, Arlington, VA
In an NPR puff piece about a special scholarship fund for illegal aliens, it’s reported that Henry Mejia is “graduating as the valedictorian from Yorktown High School, and is headed off to Bucknell University.” [Scholarships For Undocumented Students, Including One Valedictorian, By Jonathan Wilson, June 10, 2011]
I am familiar with Yorktown High School. It’s located in an affluent suburb of Arlington, VA. Yorktown has a senior class of 547 students, which is actually higher than the younger years. Some 62% of the students are white, 10% are Asian, 18% are Hispanic, and 7% of white. 14% of the students are economically disadvantaged. 98% are proficient in reading 95% are proficient in math. Suffice to say, graduating valedictorian at Yorktown is a bit more impressive than graduating at the top of the International High School.
But is Mejia actually valedictorian? According to the NPR piece, he had just graduated in 2011. However, according to many accounts from of the 2011 graduation at Yorktown High School, the valedictorian was Michelle Tomassi. And, dispelling the possibility that there were perhaps co-valedictorians, one story noted “Yorktown High School valedictorian, Michelle Tomassi, and salutatorian Alex Trestyn were also recognized for their academic achievements.” . [Yorktown Students Recognized for Achievements, Yorktown Somers Patch, by Plamena Pesheva, June 08, 2011 ]
- Nataly Montano, Washington-Lee High School, Arlington, VA.
According to a story in the Arlington Sun Gazette,
President Obama’s controversial decision to stop deportation of many young people brought to the U.S. illegally means Nataly Montano can stop worrying – ‘at least a little’ – and get on with continuing her education in the U.S. Montano, 17, graduated from Washington-Lee High School last month as a valedictorian, sporting a 4.3 grade-point average. [For W-L Valedictorian, Change in Immigration Policy Suggests New Opportunities, By Dave Facinoli, July 11, 2012]
As a Washington Watcher, I am aware of Washington-Lee High school too. It has a decent reputation. The student body is 36% white, 35% Hispanic, 12% Asian, and 12% black. 27% of students are economically disadvantaged. 96% of students are proficient in reading and 90% are proficient in math. Those are pretty good numbers, given the schools demographics.
However, as with Yorktown high school, there appears also to have been a, so to speak, documented valedictorian. Had the Sun Gazette editors bothered to check their own archives, they would have seen that just a month earlier, they reported on Washington-Lee’s graduation and identified the valedictorian as Niti Paudyal. [Washington-Lee High School Graduates Reminded to Live for the Present, By Michael Gregory, June 22, 2012] The Arlington Connection also reported that Miss Paudyal was the valedictorian. [Washington-Lee’s Commencement 2012, June 27, 2012]
After finding two questionably documented cases of undocumented valedictorians in the same county, I did a bit more research, I found that the apparent source of both of the Arlington valedictorian stories was the fund that Jonathan Wilson’s NPR story mentioned: the Virginia DREAM Project,[Email them] which gives scholarships to illegal immigrants.
In addition to identifying Montano and Mejia as valedictorians, the DREAM Project also listed another recent Arlington high school graduate, Froy Melendez, as the 2012 valedictorian at Wakefield High School.
But in fact a legal Chinese immigrant named Yue Ren was Wakefield High’s 2012 valedictorian. Patch.com published his valedictorian speech, in which he mentioned an unheard-of notion:
I was indebted to the fact that the U.S. allowed me through its gates and granted me citizenship and the privileges of being an American.
No doubt these undocumented valedictorians, documented or not, are reasonably bright students and not likely to be a drain on society (unless they become MALDEF lawyers).
However, the fact that, upon closer inspection, the best examples of potential DREAMers that the MSM point us to are less impressive than advertised is a reason to be wary of accepting millions of other illegal aliens on their assurances.
Of course, neither the MSM nor the Obama Administration is counting drug mules. But in his defense of King, former Rep. Tom Tancredo was able to show that nearly 400 minors have been arrested as smugglers in just one of eight border sectors in the last 18 months alone.
In my defense of King, I suggested he wasn’t literally citing a statistic, just speaking figuratively. But now it looks like his ratio was right.
“Washington Watcher” [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway