While the world will remember Hillary and Chelsea Clinton’s appearance Thursday afternoon at a girls club in New York City for the proclamation there that the royal family of American politics is expecting a child, for Nova Bajamonti, the memory will be much more personal for a very different announcement.
It must never be easy to admit publicly that you’ve been skirting the law for years, living illegally in a country you consider home. And it must be even harder when the people to whom you’re admitting that include someone who might one day be president.
But it was here that Bajamonti chose to share her story, hoping it would reach as many women as possible, and help some who haven’t been as fortunate as she has.
“For the first time publicly,” the 19-year-old said, standing just feet from the Clintons as they answered questions from the girls in the audience, “I want to say that I am an undocumented immigrant.” As she continued, she got more emotional, fighting back tears and barely able to speak. How can I, she asked, break this “glass ceiling “¦ that I can’t even control?”
Clinton’s response was everything Bajamonti, who was born in Croatia and moved the United States when she was just five, had hoped for. The former secretary of State praised Bajamonti for sharing her story, calling the young woman “incredibly brave.”
Clinton reiterated her support for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, and criticized the House of Representatives for failing to pass a 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.”
For her part, Chelsea thanked Bajamonti deeply for speaking out, and for helping people who often feel “invisible” show their faces.
After the event, Bajamonti told National Journal that she had been torn up inside all week about whether to make the announcement at the upcoming event. Ultimately, she decided she had to. “I’ve kept this hidden for so many years. How much of a feminist am I being in respect to myself if I’m not getting my story out there?” she said.
Most people around her, including many in the room, didn’t know about her immigration status until she spoke up, Bajamonti said. But the words from Clinton, whom Bajamonti said she has long admired, made her feel like she can finally share her story.
“I felt like I was dreaming. It meant the world to me,” she added.