LAS VEGAS — When President Obama mentioned Astrid Silva’s name in his speech outlining his executive action on immigration, she didn’t realize that the president was talking about her.
“I didn’t think it was me because everyone was clapping,” said Silva, quaking with emotion after the speech. It wasn’t until a colleague whispered to her, “He said your name,” that she knew Obama was talking about her.
The 26-year-old then started crying on the shoulder of her father, who was standing next to her, watching the speech here at the Hermandad Mexicana Nacional community center.
Silva was born in Mexico and came to the United States with her parents at age 4.
“Her only possessions were a cross, her doll and the frilly dress she had on,” Obama said in relating her tale. Now, he continued, she is a “college student working on her third degree.”
Silva is also an activist and co-founder of Dream Big Vegas, an organization for the category of undocumented immigrants such as herself, known as DREAMers, who came to the country as children.
Her brother is a U.S. citizen. Her parents remain undocumented, and her father has an order of deportation against him. It was served in 2011, and he’s been getting stay after stay. He’s up again in January, and Silva said the family has been told that chances are slim that he will get another reprieve.
Silva said her father was scammed by someone claiming to be an immigration lawyer who would take care of his paperwork. He didn’t, and her father never realized he had an order of deportation against him until it was served.
Now she is hoping that Obama’s actions — which include protections from deportation for parents of U.S. citizens — will allow him to stay.
“I’m not going to have to be afraid that my dad is going to be deported, that I don’t have this last Christmas to spend with him,” she said, her voice breaking, “to at least keep him here for longer while we keep fighting for immigration reform in Congress.”
While Silva is processing emotions of elation and shock, they are tempered by her knowing that the president’s action is temporary and that Congress must pass immigration reform.
“I’ve been frustrated more than anything with Congress, because they had an opportunity to do it and they chose not to,” she said.
The presidential shout-out was particularly special because Silva’s organization helped organize the watch party. A number of people burst into tears after the president mentioned her.
Blanca Gamez, a friend of Silva’s, said that the White House had been asking for stories of DREAMers and that the organization sent in a few, including Silva’s. Silva had a hunch something was going on, and she was wary.
“She was like, ‘Blanca, I’m nervous. I don’t know what it is,’ ” Gamez said. “Now we know what it is.”