In a day marked by intra-party drama at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, there was one speech that was met with near-unanimous approval: that of an 11-year-old girl who stood before the crowd of thousands and talked about her fear of her parents being deported.
Karla Ortiz, a U.S. citizen born in Las Vegas, said she feels scared most days that her parents will be deported. They are both undocumented and at risk of being forced out of the country even though they currently have stays of removal.
“I’m scared that at any moment my mom and my dad will be forced to leave,” she said. “And I wonder, ‘What if I come home and find it empty?’ I want my parents to see me do science experiments and find my rare rocks in the desert. I want to grow up to be a lawyer so I can help other families.”
The young girl met presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton earlier this year and shared her story, bringing the former secretary of state close to tears. The moment was captured on video and made into a TV and web ad.
“I’m going to do everything I can so you don’t have to be scared, and you don’t have to worry about what happens to your mom or your dad or somebody else in your family,” Clinton told her in the video.
Karla Ortiz recounted the conversation to the Democratic National Convention crowd, standing next to her mother, Francisca Ortiz. She would have benefitted from the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, or DAPA, which is currently blocked in the courts.
“[Clinton] wants me to have the worries of an 11-year-old, not the weight of the world on my shoulders,” Karla Ortiz said.
Francisca Ortiz said in Spanish that she knows Clinton will fight for people like her.
The positive response to their remarks showed how much unity Democrats have found around pro-undocumented immigrant policies. Both major Democratic candidates, Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants like Francisca Ortiz.
Even more so, their remarks painted a contrast between how the Democratic and Republican parties talk about undocumented immigrants. At the Democratic convention, they shared stories like Karla Ortiz’s. At the Republican National Convention last week, meanwhile, the party led by nominee Donald Trump talked about undocumented immigrants almost solely in the context of stories about Americans killed by them.
Another undocumented immigrant, Astrid Silva, took to the stage after Karla and Francisca Ortiz to share her story of growing up in the U.S. without legal status. Silva is a so-called Dreamer whose letters helped shape Senate Minority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) into an immigration reform champion. She is able to remain in the country legally under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, created under President Barack Obama.
“I know she will fight to keep our families together,” Silva said of Clinton.
The underlying context for all of this was Trump’s plan for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and the mass expulsion of undocumented immigrants who are already here.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the strongest voices for immigration reform in the House, took to the stage to decry Trump’s plans.
“No matter what others say, it is simply a fantasy that we’re going to round up and deport 11 million people. It’s a sick, hateful fantasy,” he said. “But let me tell you what gives me hope: In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, and live without fear of their family being ripped apart.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mislabeled Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s political affiliation. He’s a Democrat.