Who is Astrid Silva? She's the Rising Star Immigration Advocate President Obama Named as a Success Story.
In what many have hailed as a brave act of executive power, President Obama announced sweeping action on immigration reform this week. As is often the case, his impassioned speech laying out his plan to take executive action included anecdotes from his meetings with Americans across the country. In this speech, he mentioned only one by name: Astrid Silva.
Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. 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 she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. 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.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?
As President Obama said, Silva was a striving, hopeful immigrant child. As an adult, she's a passionate, articulate advocate for undocumented immigrants. She's the immigrant organizer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) (Present Obama was also a community organizer in his early career life). Silva wrote a thank you letter to the president in USA Today, where she gave further details of her story and expressed how shocked and honored she felt that the he had included her in his remarks. What President Obama did not include is that in 2001, Silva's father was issued a deportation order. He was detained in 2011 but his order was stayed until 2014. Now, as a result of the president's administrative reforms, he will be able to stay. She writes:
My father is my rock, our family's rock, and I can't even think about the pain and devastation I would feel if this man who has given up so much for me was taken away from us. Now, because of the president's administrative reforms, he won't be.
Astrid Silva's story may seem remarkable to some — and it is incredibly impressive — but President Obama used her as an illustration not because she's particularly unique, but because she's an example of something that happens often. She is not alone in seeking university education or a desire to contribute to a country that became her own years ago. Silva says:
With my friends, we created a DREAMers group, Dream Big Vegas, to fight for comprehensive immigration reform. I fight because I know that families like mine, families that have worked hard and played by the rules, deserve a fair chance to have a good life in America. This is our home, this is where we have built our lives, this country is where we want to build our futures.
She's like many ambitious young women, undocumented or not; she believed that higher education was the right avenue for her and pursued it with vigor. Like many of her documented friends and classmates, Silva babysat to save money for college. She contributed to her family's rent, and helped them move into a larger home. She also had protective parents. Silva wanted to be a cheerleader, she said. She wanted to go on a trip to Washington D.C. with her classmates and apply for a magnet high school. Her parents answer? No and no.
Silva's success comes despite missing out on opportunities that her classmates had because of her parents fear for her safety. Perhaps a result of the speech — beyond the sweeping reform — will be new doors open for Silva. Her propensity for feisty misbehaviour — she disregarded her parents orders and applied for that magnet school, where she was accepted — could shake up the debate and ignite passionate activists to continue the fight in congress.
With any luck, Astrid Silva's is a voice we'll continue to hear.
Images: Getty (2)