Astrid Silva has the kind of inspiring life story that helps politicians make the case for immigration reform. President Obama mentioned her in his speech Thursday night when announcing his executive actions on the “broken” immigration system. Obama said Silva emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. with her parents when she was just a toddler. She taught herself how to speak English, got good grades and had hopes of getting a college degree. “Still, she mostly lived in the shadows,” Obama said during his national address.

That was Silva then. Who is she now?

Today, Silva is a 26-year-old college student working on her third degree and she is the poster child for the immigration reform movement in Las Vegas. She will be at Obama's side on Friday, along with other undocumented immigrant students, when he holds a Las Vegas rally. Over the past few years, she has risen to prominence as an immigration reform advocate. Silva is an organizer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and won the American Immigration Council’s Immigrant Youth Achievement Award, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

“Are we a nation that kicks out a striving hopeful immigrant like Astrid -- or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?” Obama asked.

Obama isn’t the first politician to use Silva’s compelling story. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., shared Silva’s biography last year just before the Senate’s final vote on a sweeping immigration reform bill.

Reid first encountered Silva a few years ago when she started slipping “heartfelt letters” to him about her situation as an undocumented immigrant whenever he was in Nevada. Silva realized she had to do something for herself, her family and other illegal immigrants when her grandmother died and her family was unable to return to Mexico for the funeral. “That’s it,” Silva recalled telling herself. “I can’t do this my whole life.” So she started writing to the powerful Nevada senator.

When Reid finally read her handwritten notes, he was moved. Now, Silva is Reid’s favorite pen pal, a friend who has influenced his push for immigration reform. “I have appreciated every one [of her letters],” Reid said to his fellow senators last year. “They are a reminder of what is at stake in this debate -- a debate that involves our neighbors, friends and relatives.”

Shortly after Obama’s speech announcing his plans for executive changes on the U.S. immigration system, Reid tweeted about Silva.



Others caught on to Obama’s mention of the young immigrant woman, including Silva's mother. Some even documented Silva’s reaction to Obama’s speech.