April 17th, 2014
06:44 PM ET
7 months 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. metalhead65

    are we suppose to feel sorry for her? come here legally and you would not have that problem. I always wonder where the ins are as people like her admit they are here illegally or why they are not at the rallies where they are demanding rights? you are a criminal and do not have any rights! what part of illegal alien is so hard for you to understand?

    April 17, 2014 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  2. Idahoman

    Then if you are a illegal not an immigrant then you need to be deported. If Hillary had any respect for our country's laws she would have called ICE on this. Hillary is an example what is wrong with this country.

    April 17, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  3. x3zy

    I am documented. That's right. I immigrated from Europe as well. It took us two years before we could even move from Europe to just get the paperwork in order. We moved to Canada but were only able to stay for five years. My parents were not able to get permanent residence because they were overqualified. I am not making that up. We moved to the United States after that. After five years of living in the Dallas area, we became permanent residence. I became a citizen after I was 20 years old. Enlisting in the Army Reserve helped move that along. Sorry but I really don't have sympathy with people who chose to break the law.

    April 17, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  4. Bill from GA

    " Clinton has spoken in favor of immigration before. "

    I guess the new 'Ultra-Liberal Cool' in to loose the distinction between immigration and illegal immigration.

    And when will "Ultra-Liberal' get the media recognition of their rightist counterpart, the tea party. Both are equally harmful to American Values. What is the difference in Bundy disrespecting our Government in Nevada and Ultra-Liberals who have no regard for our Country's laws, and support those who ignore them?

    April 17, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  5. Kelly

    "I don't have the documentation I need to get a job, to vote, which is essential to women representation". So in other words she votes for a candidate based on their gender, sexist illegal immigrant.

    April 17, 2014 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  6. Bill from GA

    Chelsea – " a world full of so many strong, young female leaders. "

    Is this a subtle way of Chelsea saying she wants someone other than Mama Hill for Prez? Cause Mama Hill sure ain't young, and I don't see a lot of strength she has shown, other than maybe that she put up with Cheatin' Bill all those years. If Hill hadn't been riding Bill's coattails up the political ladder, she would be nobody.

    The Dems need to get off that Hillary thing and focus on some new blood for a candidate.

    April 17, 2014 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  7. bill

    my company I work at probally has 40 percent undocumented workers I wouldn't say my companys name but there are many companies out there like that so getting a job probally just depends on where to go I know for a fact it is easy to buy fake documentation because we knew many undocumented workers that have done that at the company I worked at and have worked there for many years know its just knowing where to go this is probally a good reason to give documentation to however many worker obama decides to because our system does not work know because you can't protect america without a system of somesort in place

    April 17, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  8. Koleman

    That was incredibly brave of her...And of course Hillary presented her a Green Card on the spot and invited all her friends who are still in Mexico to come over to the USA and start their careers as undocumented immigrants. That s exactly how we ended up in the situation when you have to book an appointment just to be able to meet an American in the USA- unless you are willing settle for Hispanics or Chinese

    April 17, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  9. Olaf Big

    She is underrepresented? She is in this country illegally, she has no right to be represented other than by a lawyer before the immigration judge. Why are we all getting sentimental about this? Sure it is not her fault that her parents did not resolve their immigration status for so many years. Still, the best she can ask for is that she is given an amnesty and allowed to apply for citizenship.

    April 17, 2014 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  10. ED1

    You need to go home and come in the front door nothing less like the many many people before you.

    April 17, 2014 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  11. Bill

    This woman admits to being a criminal and walks away. What is wrong with this country?

    April 17, 2014 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  12. wjm980

    You're not an "undocumented immigrant" young lady, you're a law-breaking illegal immigrant.

    April 17, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  13. BobPA

    So... "I came here illegally, and now I'm facing obstacles because I am here illegally." And?

    April 17, 2014 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  14. fweioff

    Has she been deported yet? Confessing doesn't give you a free pass.

    April 17, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  15. jamesnyc

    awww isn't that cute? Someone brought their child here illegally, steals services for 15 years and now the child wants to steal even more. Really?
    If the parents came here illegally, then the child is here illegally and everyone who harbored gave them jobs should be arrested and then you send this family back where they came from so that they can apply LEGALLY.
    Immigration reform starts with fixing the mess made by the 14th amendment after it served it primary purpose of mass citizenship to slaves.
    Do not incentivise this. Unfortunately the only way to deter the parents is to punish the children too. I don't like that but billions of dollars in services are being stolen every year. It has to stop.
    Republicans want cheap labor and Democrats want cheap votes meanwhile, the taxpayer is paying out the nose for this and taxpayers, the ones who have paid their taxes for decades, are the ones that are still looking for jobs.

    April 17, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  16. TracyL.

    I hope they do something to help this brave, young woman.

    April 17, 2014 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  17. opinionated

    unemployment is soaring, particulary among young people and HIlary wants to just open up the barn doors? sorry but if this girls dream is to go to college lets find her a plane ticket and a nice school in Croatia where she belongs.

    April 17, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  18. TracyL.

    I hope they do something to help her.

    April 17, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  19. jamesnyc

    awww isn't that cute? Someone brought their child here illegally, steals services for 15 years and now the child wants to steal even more. Really?
    If the parents came here illegally, then the child is here illegally and everyone who harbored gave them jobs should be arrested and then you send this family back where they came from so that they can apply LEGALLY.
    Immigration reform starts with fixing the mess made by the 14th amendment after it served it primary purpose of mass citizenship to slaves.
    Do not incentivise this. Unfortunately the only way to deter the parents is to punish the children too. I don't like that but billions of dollars in services are being stolen every year. It has to stop.
    Republicans want cheap labor and Democrats want cheap votes meanwhile, the taxpayer is paying out the nose for this and taxpayers, the ones who have paid their taxes for decades, are the ones that are still looking for jobs.
    Tell this young lady she should go to the consulate of her country of origin and ask the same questions.

    April 17, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  20. Jim P.

    Short version: "I am here illegally and because of your stupid laws, i can't do a bunch of things people who are here legally can do and I demand you change your laws to accommodate me simply because I happen to be here and I don't like your laws."

    Does that about sum it up?

    April 17, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  21. Garry

    If she came here without the required permission all legal immigrants get, she is here illegally. I noticed the word was never used in the article. Does immigration reform mean we will pick and choose which laws we enforce? We'll just ignore the 11 million people who have broken our laws by entering without authorization? If someone holds up a convenience store with good intentions, does he get a by? Yes, we are a nation of immigrants, who, up until recently, migrated here with the permission of the government. My father and his parents did, and my mother's parents did. To allow these 11 million to stay here illegally demeans everything my forbearers did to get here.

    April 17, 2014 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  22. Josh

    What amazing times we live in where the presence of blatantly ignored immigration laws constitute a 'glass ceiling'.

    April 17, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  23. Luis Buentello

    Democrats had the opportunity for two long years (2009 & 2010) to fix the immigration issue and pass the law. They chose not to. Now, they want to blame Republicans for not doing it. Really? Sadly, people believe it and blame Republicans for it when this could have been passed "if the Dems had really wanted it". America, open your eyes and see the reality.

    April 17, 2014 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  24. Just_realistic

    Call ICE and deport her now.

    April 17, 2014 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  25. blah blah

    Here's what you can do...become a legal citizen.

    April 18, 2014 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
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