This time last week, Republicans were selling war pornography, playing murdering-immigrant reels narrated by grieving parents, and frightening Americans with Rudy Giuliani shouting straight into their living rooms. On Monday, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the Democrats answered that with a lineup worthy of an Old Navy ad, a repeated message of inclusivity and interdependence, and more actual celebrities than appeared in all four days of the GOP convention.
Among the warm-up speakers tonight were 11-year-old Karla Ortiz and her undocumented-immigrant mother, Francisca, and the noted Las Vegas immigrant-activist Astrid Silva. The three were sandwiched between queer and female and immigrant lawmakers, labor leaders, and professional athletes in the program. The racial and gender diversity onstage and on the convention floor was striking. Speakers wasted no time pointing out the contrast with the Republican convention—not without occasional self-congratulatory smugness.
Ortiz’s and her mother’s speeches were short, and DREAMer Silva’s was even shorter, but the women’s presence on stage was the most important part of the message anyway. Karla, Francisca, and Silva are the very people Donald Trump refers to when he talks about “the illegals” who supposedly threaten national security and the economy.
“Hillary Clinton told me that she would do everything she could to help us,” the young Ortiz said on Monday. “She told me that I didn’t have to do the worrying, because she would do the worrying. She wants me to have the worries of an 11-year-old, not the weight of the world on my shoulders.” Ortiz met Clinton in February in an immigrant roundtable that provided footage for a campaign ad that Ortiz later starred in. (Silva can also be seen in the video.) In it, Ortiz told Clinton, who drew the young girl onto her lap, that she feared the deportation of her parents. Clinton responded with tenderness that the campaign sought to highlight back in February during the heated primary.
“My family and I are here because of Senator Harry Reid, abuelito [grandfather], who put himself in our shoes and helped us,” Silva, who is famous for her epistolary friendship with the Senate minority leader, said on Monday. “While President Obama’s immigration action helped me, we live in constant fear that my parents can be taken from their grandson Noah.” Silva is a recipient of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Obama’s major 2012 executive action granting immigrants like her who came to the United States as children short-term protections from deportation and work permits.
Silva, 28 and an immigrant-rights powerhouse, is no stranger to the national spotlight. She immigrated to the United States by climbing into a tire raft with her family as a 4-year-old, then taught herself English on the school playground and became a star student. Held back from her childhood dreams of becoming an architect because of her undocumented-immigrant status, she turned to activism, and today is the organizing director for Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.