A week after graduating from the Thurgood Marshall College at the University of California, San Diego, a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant is still getting plenty of criticism for proudly waving a Mexican flag on stage as she received her college diploma.
It all started after Indira Esparza was featured by the San Diego Union-Tribune for her college successes despite the barriers she overcame as an undocumented immigrant.
"She faced financial insecurity, anxiety over losing family members to deportation and judgment from others because of her Mexican citizenship," the article read.
The accompanying photo showed Esparza making a peace sign with two fingers as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma and holding a green, white and red Mexican flag.
The photo sparked a sharp reaction by offended readers who wrote angry letters and comments. The response has been so fierce, it prompted the newspaper to write a new article just about the reaction.
"Send her undocumented ass home to her precious Mexico," one commenter identified as J.j. Wrong posted. "Good luck getting the education in the country she is so proud of. Ignorant waste of a news feed."
"So she is here illegally but gets to go to high school, college (how much at tax payers’ expense), and at graduation she chose to wave a Mexican flag," Todd Gilbert wrote.
"If she feels so compelled to show homage to a country that failed to provide for her parents – forcing her family to relocate to a foreign country to which she demonstrates no allegiance – then it is high time for her to take what she learned at UCSD and move back to Mexico," Chuck Briones wrote.
In an online poll asking whether Esparza should have waved the Mexican flag, the largest group of respondents, 45 percent, answered, “Yes, she is proud of her roots and heritage.”
Altogether, however, a majority of respondents disagreed with her action, saying she should have waved an American flag (19 percent), both flags (20) or neither (14).
"She has the constitutional right to [hold] whatever flag she wants," Sandra Alvarado commented online. "She was born there, why not hold it at graduation? I'm sure her values and customs from Mexico allowed her to get where she is today, I know it helped me."
While at UCSD, Esparza helped establish its Undocumented Student Services Center, and she expects to begin grad school in education this summer.The 22-year-old hopes to do research on the educational experiences of undocumented students.
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