April 17th, 2014
06:44 PM ET
4 years ago

Teen describes ‘glass ceiling’ of being an undocumented immigrant to Hillary Clinton

New York (CNN) - When Nova Bajamonti walked into to the Lower Eastside Girls Club in New York on Thursday, she knew the day would be different. Hillary Clinton, an inspiration of hers, was coming to speak, and she was one of 60 girls allowed to attend and possibly ask a question.

But that wasn't the biggest reason Thursday's event was going to change Bajamonti's life. If called on, the 19-year-old student planned to divulge a secret she had kept for over a decade: She was an undocumented immigrant.

So when she raised her hand and was called on by moderator and actress America Ferrera, her stomach sank and she instantly became nervous. Standing in front of a room of her peers, along with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Bajamonti told her story.

"For the first time publicly," she said as she began to tear up, "I want to say that I am an undocumented immigrant."

The admission elicited some gasps and a round of applause as Bajamonti talked about being born in Split, Croatia, immigrating to the United States when she was 5 and living for more than a decade as an undocumented immigrant.

"I don't have the documentation I need to get a job, to vote, which is essential 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," she said between tears.

And then came her question: "What do we need to do to put this in priority when it comes to Congress, because this is an extreme glass ceiling to me that I can't even control?"

Bajamonti told CNN after the event that when she sat down and waited for Clinton's response, she was very nervous and amazed by what she had just done. It was all made better, she said, when she heard Clinton's response.

"That was incredibly brave, and I thank you for doing that because it is important to put ourselves in other people’s shoes," said the former secretary of state and prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, should she decide to run.

Clinton went on to endorse immigration reform, especially the legislation that passed the Senate last year but has since failed to go anywhere in the House of Representatives.

"I am a huge supporter of immigration reform and a path to citizenship and will continue to advocate for that," Clinton said, as she called immigration not only good for immigrants but also "good for us."

"We have jobs that are done, we have cultural contributions that are made, it is good for us," Clinton said. “I believe strongly we are missing a great opportunity by not welcoming people like you and 11 million others who have made contributions to our country into a legal status."

Clinton has spoken in favor of immigration before. At an event earlier this month in San Francisco, Clinton endorsed immigration reform and said the United States had to "work our way towards the kind of future I envision."

Bajamonti’s admission was a raw moment at what was, until that point, a fairly scripted forum at the Lower Eastside Girls Club, a private community center in Manhattan that offers programs and services for girls and young women.

After the event, the smiling teen was showered with support from friends, while others, including people close to Clinton, approached to offer their help.

"It was really important for me as a female to female to tell her how I am being under-represented, and that is why it was essential to bring this to her," Bajamonti said after the event, calling her immigration status her "own personal glass ceiling."

Thursday's forum was the first installment of No Ceiling events that the Clinton Foundation will hold to hear from girls and women around the world. The initiative was inspired by the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, an event that propelled Clinton - then first lady - onto the world stage.

In addition to the girls in the room, questions came from four schools across the country via Skype and from girls online. The topics ranged from who inspired the Clintons the most to how women can participate more in society.

Bajamonti's admission came shortly before Chelsea Clinton made an unexpected announcement of her own: She is expecting her first child.

"Marc and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year," Chelsea said at the end of the event. "And I certainly feel all the better whether it's a girl or a boy that she or he will grow up in a world full of so many strong, young female leaders. So thank you for inspiring me and thank you for inspiring future generations."

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton have long acknowledged their desire for a grandchild, and at Thursday's event, the former secretary of state was visibly excited.

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Immigration
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. Oh No Not Again

    Are you kidding me? Clearly another friendly "plant" with a softball question and emotion eliciting story to tug at the hearstrings of the Democratic base. How pathetic. Even funnier, is the smirks on the fugly Hillary and Chelsea as they see this young lady not for her plight or her story, but rather as a Democratic voter of the future. The Clinton's are disgusting people.

    April 17, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  2. wiley

    So disgusting. "I'm doing something illegal, and you owe it to me to fix it for me."

    April 17, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  3. McBob79

    I do feel for those born in the U.S. by illegal immigrants. These folks are undocumented, but their parents are law breakers.

    April 17, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  4. Mike

    There is a reason we have an immigration process in this country: It's to protect our citizens. It's to protect public health, public safety, protect jobs, and national security. Articles like this one are meant to try to make us feel sorry for people who have broken the laws and come here illegally, but they unfortunately don't paint the big picture. Someone could enter the United States illegally and perform a terrorist act, some could enter the US illegally with a very deadly virus. If we relax our laws, we simply open the doors and raise the chances that something bad could happen, something that could potentially kill thousands of innocent people. So you decide whether you want to feel sorry for someone who broke the law, or feel sorry for thousands of people who could potentially die if we allow our laws to be broken.

    April 17, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  5. Jimmy

    I hope they deported her shortly after.

    April 17, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  6. Tom American

    Only liberals will applause someone breaking the law.

    Don't get me wrong. I feel badly for this girl. But, it isn't America's fault that she is in this situation. This is squarely put on her parents' shoulders. This girl and the other 11 million illegals need to be deported and definitely not be given any preferental treatment to being moved to the front of the line. That will only encourage others to do the same thing.

    Were those tears because she is an illegal or the fact that almost $120,000 has been stolen on her education alone? The U.S. has probably paid well over $200,000 for the welfare of this woman. Why aren't we spending that money on American citizens? When did illegals become more than our own brothers?

    April 17, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  7. Louise

    If she has been here that long, then she has absolutely no excuse for still being an "undocumented immigrant" ie illegal.
    There are plenty of classes that illegals can take to become citizens. Heck there are classes on how to speak English held in the same local church that also helps illegals become legal! Get off your lazy ass and do what thousands of other people have done.

    April 17, 2014 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  8. Louise

    undocumented immigrant= illegal There are already ways to become legal. You just have to do it and stop whining.

    April 17, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  9. Martin

    Deport all ILLEGAL ALIENS. Period..

    April 17, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  10. nathan berg

    when criminals are pulled over for driving without a license, they should say they were driving 'undocumented.' or if they're caught without liability insurance, they're 'undocumented'. how about when the IRS comes asking where it's tax money is? UNDOCUMENTED. we used to call it ILLEGAL, but apparently, if it sells votes, it's ok to break the law FOR THE LAWMAKERS. what a world....

    April 17, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  11. michael

    You should not be allowed to get help going to college or get and apartment or a job. You are in our country illegally and should pursue the proper and "legal" course of action to become a documented American. How how you served this country? You have only taken from it and those of us who were born here whose parents paid taxes and served in our military as we have. America is not a free for all!

    April 17, 2014 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  12. michael

    You should not be allowed to get help going to college or get and apartment or a job. You are in our country illegally and should pursue the proper and "legal" course of action to become a documented American. How have you served this country? You have only taken from it and those of us who were born here whose parents paid taxes and served in our military as we have. America is not a free for all!

    April 17, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  13. Johnny 5

    11 guys at my fathers workplace were found to be undocumented when immigration showed up and hauled them all away one morning. Why wasn't this outspoken undocumented teen immigrant treated the same way? Illegal is illegal. These immigrants are going to used as pawns for votes and then thrown to the lions afterwards. It worked to help get the 8 million sign ups for Obamacare by allowing illegals to apply so it's almost mission accomplished for Barry and the gang.

    April 17, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  14. Lisa

    Maybe I should just go off and steel from a bank and have CNN run a sob story for me when I state: "I needed money but I was undocumented. I know right from wrong and I know that I broke the law but I am entitled to the banks money even though I didn't have proof that I had an account. The bank should just not prosecute me because of my illegal acts and give me a free pass"

    ILLEGALS KNOW RIGHT FROM WRONG!!! Yet they are handed free passes at the expense of actual US Citizens. They come here and have babies to assure their protection in staying here. Actual Soldiers and Citizens are being denied benifits, assistance because the ILLEGALS are being given "free passes".

    Sorry, but if I broke the law I WOULD BE JAILED!!! ILLEGALS break the law, they are handed every benifit in the book. I don't feel sorry for this teen. She knows that she is here illegaly and is EXPECTING a free pass doing so. Shows her moral compass.

    April 17, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  15. galactus

    Another liberal sob story. Who cares? We need our immigration laws enforced and this illegal alien should be deported with the 12 million other illegal aliens living in the United States.

    April 17, 2014 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  16. brian

    only in america..... don't give me high and mighty crap.... EVERYWHERE else, illegals are deported.... only in America, anything sounds good is an easy sell.

    April 17, 2014 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  17. Francisco Escobedo

    So following the democrats, and in the name of "equality", then let's open the borders for everyone that ones to come in! Everybody will be equal, even if you have been waiting for a green card for years. Then nobody will be "discriminated" by not allowing him/her in with this silly border thing. That's what should happen if the democrats were consistent.

    April 17, 2014 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  18. Katherine's

    Her parents broke the law. I feel empathy for the children bought here by their parents, but not the 12 million behind her. And enough about the native Americans are the only try Americans. Every society evolves. America has evolved and changed. Our laws have changed. We have immigration laws in place. We don't need to reform them because some have disregarded the laws and find our enforcement of the laws wrong. Millions have come to this country legally. Paying very expensive fees and waiting in line for years. What makes someone who sneaks in think they have the same rights? Enforce our laws. Fine the parents who bought their children here illegally.

    April 17, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  19. Seola

    Good plant. Bad execution.

    April 17, 2014 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  20. AC

    What times we live in–when illegal aliens come here and announce to our faces that they broke our laws and we lick their feet.
    "Thank you for coming here!" we say. "Since none of you want to stay in your own countries and fix them, please being your low educations, low skills, and criminal inevitabilities and burden us with feeding you and schooling your anchor babies!"
    There's Hillary thinking, "Oooo yesss, we'll get amnesty through, hundreds of thousands of new Democrat voters on a platter! And keeping the price of labor low so all my corporate handlers will keep giving me campaign money!"
    And stupid Chelsea thinks it's all so touching, her bleeding heart is soaking her dress with blood. She won't ever have to live with any consequences of mass immigration, of course.
    So it goes in Amerika 2014...

    April 17, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  21. celietz

    "Glass ceiling", you are kidding right? Have you forgotten the fact that you are in this country illegally?

    April 17, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  22. Miami Mike

    She is in the country ILLEGALLY.

    April 17, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  23. BorisRoberts

    OK, Hillary, you want the undocumented vote. What about the 11-20 million illegals, that are driving down wages here in CA? I know the problems doesn't directly affect you, but in my area, in my whole state, CA, teenagers cannot find the jobs that you, your husband, I, and most of America had as youths, service jobs, to learn how to work. The busboys, waiters, dishwashers, car washers, construction clean up crews, the gardeners, etc., that are all taken by illegal aliens now? Teenagers, cannot find jobs any more. McDonalds, Wendy's, Burger King, etc., all have non-English speaking people, working with stolen SSI numbers, taking all those jobs. Why don't you address this? All for a possible vote, and I know you will give them citizenship, just for the possible votes. The only hitch is, they are predominantly Catholic, which means, since the Democrats are anti religions, and the Republicans being anti abortion and pro religion, that if they vote, they will vote with religion. I think the illegals should return to wherever they came from, and start at the beginning. My property values have been driven down enough as it is.

    April 17, 2014 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  24. dave

    I don't think the immigration system is fixable. They may get amnesty for the current group of illegal workers, but then a new batch will come in afer that, it will be just a continual process of illegal immigration, then amnesty, then more illegal immigration, then another amnesty, over and over again, til the end of time. That's how the system has worked over that last several generations, this will not be our 1st amnesty, it might be about our 6th or 7th. The government is more interesting in maintaining a huge worker surplus so that wage/salaries will always stay low, and profits for the fat cats will always be sky high, more to add to that division of wealth thing. They say they are for the working people but then at the same time they say they will help out the working people by bringing in millions more workers. Of course millions more workers will add to the current massive worker surplus, and cause wages/salaries to stagnate and decline, as it they should in a labor market with huge surpluses of workers. Of course every American worker thinks they are above the labor pool, that they are the one exception to the million in the same labor pool, but we only have one labor pool, and all those who get pay checks are part of the same labor pool, whether they be a brain surgeon, or a lowly street sweeper, its all the same pool. The politicians know that, and they know that the average person does not, so they take advantage of the ignorant fools. It's a goofy thing, they clamor and complain, want better pay, want to keep the middle class, want the good life that working should give, but on the other hand they want millions of new workers to be brought in, it's just plain craziness, stuff that only little children might think up, but it's mostly adults, real stupid adults maybe.

    April 17, 2014 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  25. jannysue

    What a brave young woman. It would be cruel to to tear her away from, for all intents and purposes, her friends, family, and the only life she has ever known. Let's hope for immigration reform soon.

    April 17, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
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