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. Lets Real

    Lets be real for a second. There are numerous statements about this being a women's issue. and being under represented as a woman, and needing to speak woman to woman, and how this is a glass ceiling as a woman. no it has nothing to do with anything. You don't get denied all of the things mentioned in the article for being a woman. you get denied those things for being an illegal immigrant. And there should be a glass ceiling to discourage illegal immigration. If this person cannot be successful because she has not followed the law then the law is working

    April 18, 2014 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  2. jason

    Until the economy is fixed ...talking immigration would only be impractical

    April 18, 2014 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  3. Xib

    She should be deported, by Clinton.

    April 18, 2014 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  4. Amazed

    Is this lunatic Thursday? The teen is here without papers that confer legal presence. That could be the fault of the teen, or the parent; but it is certainly not the fault of the US government. There is SUPPOSED to be glass ceiling for people illegally here. What do we want – special rights for people illegaly here?

    April 18, 2014 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  5. Wilson

    Political correctness is ruining this country. This teen is an illegal alien pure and simple. The is no need for "immigration reform." The need is for the current laws on the books to be enforced and the borders secured.

    April 18, 2014 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  6. Chuck

    Try this in another country and see how you are treated, you would be deported and possibly arrested depending on the country. First just getting to the U.S. does not guarantee you citizenship, its about time we take this seriously and make this a criminal act and not just a civil one.

    April 18, 2014 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  7. Mike Knox

    ""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…"
    I am sympathetic to her cause, considering she was brought here as a child. I believe we need to provide a path to citizenship with people like Bajamonti. I applaud her courage in standing up and telling her story. But I still take issue with her statement that she is being under-represented. The fact that she does not have the documentation she needs "to 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," is her parents' fault–not the fault or responsibility of the US gov't. She is expressing an American perspective because she grew up here and has embraced American values. Let's be clear: many of us want to help her become a bona fide US citizen but in the meantime she has no right to expect or insist that this should be a priority in the US congress. As long as we are clear about the "rights" of illegal immigrants, we can work together on immigration reform. But blurring the lines about the RIGHTS illegal immigrants have as non-citizens will lead to greater opposition because it threatens the rule of law in our country in ways that are much farther reaching than just immigration.

    April 18, 2014 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  8. sam

    So sweet, but you can't be undocumented and be proud of it. And telling Mrs. Clinton, she can't just hand you the legal documentation, or is she? Then, why US asked rest of us initially immigrants to complete the whole requirements as it is beforehand, when anyone can buy a flight ticket to Mexico and cross the boarder thereafter and say in front of a well known politician 'i'm undocumented'. So what?!

    April 18, 2014 02:36 am at 2:36 am |
  9. Larry

    Let's cut the crapola and word games – she's not "undocumented." She's her illegally.

    April 18, 2014 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  10. E

    Good thing she didn't have an ottoman...

    April 18, 2014 03:36 am at 3:36 am |
  11. John

    Since when are we concerned that foreigners don't have the "right" to vote? She should be arrested and deported. Clinton is just another politician who, by her very response, proves that she has no intention of upholding the laws of the land.

    April 18, 2014 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  12. Undocumented = Illegal

    I missed the part of the story where they told her "We appreciate your confession. Now if you'll come with us, we have some paperwork to fill out before we deport you."

    April 18, 2014 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  13. gorgegirl

    To those who think that the only "undocumented" immigrants we have are from Mexico, this goes to show them that is absolutely not the case. Here we have a young girl who was brought here from Croatia, a country that was at war, and she was only 5 years old.
    It is unfortunate that republicans have no empathy or caring for others. After all, they are all so perfect and we can't forget that they declare themselves as "Christians", but I think God would disagree with them.

    April 18, 2014 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
  14. Chris

    Seriously, this girl talks about the glass ceiling?

    Hey sweetie, of course there is a glass ceiling YOU ARE A CRIMINAL!

    Why didnt the secret service have her arrested on the spot?

    A Hillary q/a as she preps her white house run. Anyone actually believe this wasnt a setup?

    April 18, 2014 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  15. mike

    Well call I.C.E

    April 18, 2014 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  16. Alan

    You have to be a citizen to vote.. She isnt a citizen, so she doesnt get to vote.. The only documentation that would get her the ability to vote is her naturalization card. There is nothing from stopping her from starting that process. Its not a glass ceiling, its a hurdle she hasn't jumped yet.

    April 18, 2014 05:36 am at 5:36 am |
  17. concernedcitizen

    if she can break the law and brag to a goverment person why can't everyone

    April 18, 2014 05:38 am at 5:38 am |
  18. Chris

    Why not one of us visit this teen's country and say the same thing... Bet your freedom would end very quickly.

    April 18, 2014 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  19. sunsudo

    don't even want to read the story. just want to know why they were not deported?

    April 18, 2014 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  20. Gurgyl

    This nation needs Immigration reform, Education, Infrastructure.

    April 18, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  21. No your enemy

    deport her on the spot!

    April 18, 2014 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  22. Vence

    Brave girl. She is showing republicans what is to have a spine!

    April 18, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  23. bob_lawbla

    If the US had been "enforcing" the immigration laws these kids probably would not be in this situation. While something needs to be done to address this issue, knee-jerk progressive action will end up creating more incentive for illegals to break the law with no regard for anyone.

    They got the better life for their children, it's just not the blank check they thought it would be.

    April 18, 2014 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  24. rla

    Sorry - no more guilt– this person or someone else including our lame government made some bad greedy decisions without regard for AMERICA nor its citizens.. This girl still has more opportunity than in any place on earth– good luck to her but not on my families dime anymore

    April 18, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |

    I mean, i really dont understand when ppl come here illegally, why the EXpect and we do to, to just let everyone stay illegally and/or make them legal.

    If I were to goto another country and live illegally you can bet your b u tt that i would be deported.

    April 18, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
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