Astrid Silva had no idea that President Obama was planning to mention her in a prime-time address announcing actions he planned to take on immigration. She found out when the rest of the nation did, as she watched with other immigration reform advocates at a party in Las Vegas.
“I was taken off my seat like everybody else in our room,” she said. “It was something I’ve never felt before.”
In the hours since, it’s been a whirlwind of calls from friends and family, and, yes, endless media interview requests. She also received an invitation to introduce the president when he spoke at a Las Vegas high school.
Her one regret: In all the chaos, her phone battery died and she couldn’t take pictures of the experience of meeting Obama in person.
Silva was largely unfazed by the new attention though.
“I was just the person he chose to do this. But there are so many people that this represents,” she said. “I’m not the only one. There’s 11 million of us in the country. We just want to stay with our families. We don’t want to be separated.”
Silva said she told the president backstage that it was important to keep the fight going, and that she was willing to stay part of it.
“We need to make this a law so that everybody benefits from it, not just a small number.”
Silva’s story, highlighted in a 2013 Los Angeles Times profile, had already resonated in Washington political circles. She and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) became “pen pals” — and the Nevadan invited her to witness the Senate’s vote on comprehensive reform legislation in 2013.
That bill never went any further, driving the changes Obama announced Friday.
Backstage, Silva slipped Reid yet another handwritten note. Reid read it quietly before speaking with reporters, choking up as he did. Part of the message: “Thank you Sen. Reid. My dad is now covered.”
Reid said one of the best things about the president’s action was what it meant for Silva’s father.
“He loves baseball,” said Reid, a baseball fanatic himself. “He can go to a baseball game now and not be worried about being taken away in handcuffs.”
Reid said he was confident Silva could withstand all the new attention the presidential spotlight would bring.
“She’s been doing quite well on her own. The president chose her I’m sure because she represents what this is all about,” he said.
Dolores Huerta, a civil rights activist and cofounder of the United Farm Workers, said Silva and other so-called Dreamers “have been at the vanguard of this whole immigrant rights movement.”
“She’s a very humble person,” said Huerta, who also attended Obama’s speech. “I don’t think it’s going to spoil her. I think it’s just going to give her a lot more strength to go out and be the leader that she is.”
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