Astrid Silva, a local immigration activist, was singled out Thursday by President Barack Obama who told her story during a televised speech to illustrate the predicament faced by children of undocumented immigrants.
Silva, a DREAMer, or a child who entered the United States without proper documentation, said her story is not unique.
“I’m just one story out of millions of stories,” said Silva, now 26, as she was leaving a watch party for Obama’s speech at Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional in Las Vegas. “It’s good that our stories are getting attention.”
Silva said she was “very excited” about Obama’s announcement on executive actions that could prevent millions from being deported.
“I’m very excited to know that so many families will benefit from this,” said the woman, who was awarded the Immigrant Youth Achievement Award from the American Immigration Council earlier this year.
The council honored her for forging a relationship with U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and giving him a firsthand account of the hardships facing DREAMers, which helped shape his immigration policies. Silva now works as an organizer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
However, she added that Congress needs to take action on broader immigration reform.
During his speech, Obama said over the past few years he’s seen the determination of fathers who labor to build a better life for their children, the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be deported, and the courage of students who come out as undocumented in the hopes they could make a difference in the country they love.
He said immigrants come to the United States to work, study, serve in the military and contribute to America’s success.
“Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva,” Obama said. “Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on.”
When Astrid started school in Las Vegas, she didn’t speak English, he said. She caught up to other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS and ultimately graduated from the Advanced Technologies Academy, a public magnet high school.
Her father worked in landscaping and her mother cleaned other people’s homes, he said.
“They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school, not because they didn’t love her, but because they were afraid the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant — so she applied behind their back and got in,” he said.
Astrid remained in the shadows until her grandmother, who used to visit from Mexico every year, died and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without the risk of being deported, he said.
“It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree,” Obama said. “Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid, or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.”
Contact Yesenia Amaro at email@example.com or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.