A 19-year-old undocumented immigrant confronted Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and not-quite-presidential candidate, about immigration reform at an event hosted by the Clinton Foundation Thursday.
An hour into the panel discussion, which featured Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, the moderator, actress America Ferrera, called on a young woman at the front of the room to ask a question. “I have a very different glass ceiling than some of the girls here,” the 19-year-old woman explained, fighting back tears. “For the first time publicly I want to say that I am an undocumented immigrant.” She went on to explain that her family had illegally brought her to the US from Croatia when she was five-years-old. “It’s been very hard,” she continued, “because I don’t have the documentation to get a job, to vote—which is essential obviously to women representation—to buy an apartment, to take out a loan to go to college, so I couldn’t even go to my dream college because of that, to get no financial aid.”
Clinton immediately sympathized. “I believe strongly that we are missing a great opportunity by not welcoming people like you,” she said, “and 11 million others who have made contributions to our country, into a legal status.”
Clinton continued, saying that she favors “immigration reform and a path to citizenship.” The former secretary of state shied away from offering an opinion on how exactly she thinks the government should offer citizenship to those residing in the country without documents, but she endorsed the reform bill that the Senate passed last year. Without naming the party, she called out the Republican leaders of the House of Representatives and said that they should allow a vote on the bill. “I think that’s a big missed opportunity for our country,” Clinton said, “because part of the reason we’re going to do really well in the 21st century is because we are a nation of immigrants. We keep attracting people like you and your family who want to make a contribution. It’s not only because we want to make life better for people like yourselves who is already here, it’s good for us.”
The Clintons were speaking at an event for the family foundation’s No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, which focuses on advancing women’s rights worldwide. The younger Clinton made news herself at the event by announcing that she is pregnant.
Clinton supported the failed bipartisan efforts to reform the immigration system during George W Bush’s second term. The Senate’s latest stab at fixing the system is more modest than the Bush-era proposal.