A young woman who tearfully and publicly confessed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she was an undocumented immigrant was praised by Clinton for being "incredibly brave."
Actress America Ferrera moderated the event Thursday at the Lower East Side Girls Club in New York City, billed as the first in a series of the Clinton Foundation's "No Ceilings" conversations aimed at bringing together women and girls from around the world to discuss female empowerment and growth.
Ferrera turned to the group of women in attendance for questions to ask the hosts, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Among the women who raised their hands, one in particular stood out.
"You seem like you have something you want to say," Ferrera said, pointing at a young woman in the audience.
As she stood up, no one expected the life-changing statement she was about to make.
"My name is Nova. I'm 19-years-old…and I have a very different glass ceiling than some of the girls are exhibiting here," she said.
Nova paused, took a deep breath, and then revealed her secret.
"For the first time publicly. I want to say that I am an undocumented immigrant."
As the gravity of what she had just said sunk in, the young woman's eyes swelled with tears.
But she continued to tell her story.
"And I want to say that it's extremely difficult for me to empower myself in America," she said, tears streaming down her face. "It's been very hard because I don't have the documentation I need to get a job…to vote…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."
Nova, who said she came to the United States when she was 5 years old from Split, Croatia, then turned the question to Hillary Clinton.
"I wanted to ask, what in your stance is essential for immigration reform? I can just only imagine how many girls there are who can't fully empower themselves, especially in America, because we immigrated here."
"So I wanted to ask," she said earnestly. "What do we need to do to put this in priority when it comes to Congress, because this is an extreme glass ceiling for me that I can't even control. Not even as a woman, but not even as a human."
Hillary Clinton responded with praise and admiration for the young woman's bravery.
"Oh Nova," she said, pausing for the crowd's applause to wane. "Wow. That was incredibly brave. And I thank you for doing that."
"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," Mrs. Clinton said.
Clinton went on to criticize the House of Representatives for not taking the immigration reform bill up after the Senate, describing it as a "big missed opportunity for our country."
Clinton stressed her continuing devotion to the cause.
"I'm a huge supporter of immigration reform and a path to citizenship, and will continue to advocate for that," she said.
Chelsea Clinton echoed her mother's sentiment and urged the young woman to continue making her voice heard.
"There's nothing really worse than being dis-empowered and feeling invisible and you started to change that here today," Clinton said. "Thank you for making yourself less invisible and more visible today."