Astrid Silva didn’t hear her name when the president of the United States first said it Thursday night.
But she couldn’t miss the cheers from a crowded room in Las Vegas where she and others listened to Barack Obama tell a story — her story — about a 4-year-old girl with a cross, a doll and a frilly dress who came to the country illegally with her family.
The young woman who has led immigration reform efforts buried her face in her father’s shoulder, standing side-by-side against a wall, as the president mentioned the time when Silva couldn’t return to Mexico to be at her grandmother’s funeral.
The 26-year-old’s tears didn’t abate as she went from interview to interview in front of cameras and microphones in a crowded Las Vegas office to tell her story once more, seconds after Obama finished telling the country about his plan to offer protections to nearly 5 million immigrants, including deferring deportations for some.
Her father, Cesar Silva, watched from a few feet away as his daughter took center stage.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “We’ve been waiting over 20 years for this.”
Cesar Silva has faced deportation since 2011, and a stay expires in January.
“We didn’t know if this was going to be our last holiday together,” Astrid Silva said.
She and others in the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada group organized a watch party inside the Las Vegas office of Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, a nonprofit that offers assistance to immigrant workers, ahead of the president’s appearance Friday afternoon at a Las Vegas-area high school to promote the plan.
The crowd was filled with stories Thursday night.
Lorena Palos, who arrived in Las Vegas from Mexico at age 6 when a vacation became permanent, joked that Obama’s action means she’ll no longer watch her parents leave for work each morning and wonder if they’ll come home.
“I understand it’s not permanent, but it’s something,” the 18-year-old student at the College of Southern Nevada said of the president’s plan.
Leo Murrieta, national field director based in Nevada for Mi Familia Vota, said it was bittersweet.
His brother-in-law would avoid the risk of deportation, but his friend’s family in Phoenix would not because none of the children were born in the U.S.
“They didn’t win the lottery tonight,” he said.
“Tonight is for the tears,” he said. “Tomorrow is for the fight.”
He said he hoped they could rally the several million immigrants given a reprieve from deportation to raise their voices politically to encourage more comprehensive reform from legislators.
Others emphasized the need to keep pressure on lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and to assure that Obama’s executive action doesn’t go away with the next president elected in 2016.
Silva wore a button with a photo of Tomasa Macias, who she said died several months ago after having a stroke. Macias lacked a Social Security number, insurance and citizenship, and was afraid to call 911 for an ambulance for fear of being found out, Silva said.
“She would have benefited from this,” Silva said through more tears. People’s lives have been upended “because 435 people can’t decide on something,” she said, referring to the House of Representatives, which didn’t vote on immigration reform after a Senate bill had passed.
“I’m just one story,” Silva said.
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