16 people who shaped the 2016 election: Karla Ortiz

By Nov. 9, the votes will have been cast and counted, there will be a winner and a loser, and the country will begin a slow return to normal. Historians will have their say on the outcome, but all of us who have lived through this election will carry away indelible memories of a shocking year in American history: of a handful of ordinary people, swept up in the rush of history; of a series of moments on which the fate of the nation seemed, at least briefly, to turn; and of places on the map that became symbols of a divided nation. As we count down to Election Day, Yahoo News has identified 16 unforgettable people, moments and places.

Eleven-year-old Karla Ortiz met Hillary Clinton at a campaign event in Las Vegas in February, a closed meeting with a small group of mostly young Hispanics. She came with her mother, Francisca, and spoke haltingly of her fear that her parents, who are undocumented, will be thrown out of the country. “Let me do the worrying,” Clinton responded, hugging the girl — a moment that was captured on video and edited into a widely viewed campaign ad titled “Brave.”

Months later, Karla appeared, with her mother again, on the podium at the Democratic National Convention, to talk about being “scared that at any moment my mom and my dad will be forced to leave, and I wonder what if I come home and find it empty.” Karla, who was born in Las Vegas, is an American citizen; her parents are from Guatemala. As Karla told Clinton in February, they have received a deportation order; presumably they are appealing it, or may have other extenuating circumstances. Their situation would appear to be covered by the Obama administration’s executive order of 2014, deferring deportation of immigrants who meet certain conditions, including having children who are U.S. citizens. That order, however, has been stayed by the courts — and a deadlocked Supreme Court, a month before the DNC, let the injunction stand.

Karla’s speech — her mother spoke briefly afterward, in Spanish — was one of the emotional highlights of the convention, although Republicans were, predictably, unmoved. The headline on Breitbart.com read “Democratic Party Discards Assimilation, Promotes Spanish-Speaking Illegals at Convention,” and a commentator on one right-wing website pointed out that “if her parents are deported and she stays here, THEY’RE choosing to split up.” It’s easy to imagine that if Donald Trump becomes president, however long it takes to deport all 11 million (or so) illegal immigrants, the case of the family that appeared at the DNC to support Hillary Clinton will be high on the list.

U.S.-born citizen11-year-old Karla Ortiz takes the stage with her mother.
U.S.-born citizen11-year-old Karla Ortiz takes the stage with her mother, Francisca Ortiz, who is undocumented, at the Democratic National Convention. (Photo: Gary Cameron/Reuters)

In an interview with Brad Marshland of Yahoo News, Karla was asked if, given the events of the past year, she was more or less afraid that her parents would be sent away. She answered:

“I’m in the middle because … Donald Trump says that if he wins for president he’s gonna deport everybody. … And so, I’m kinda scared about that. But on the other side, I’m very positive that Hillary Clinton’s gonna win to be president. Because she’s a very nice person. And so, she will do everything she could to help us.”

She was asked how her view of the United States had changed.

“It’s listening,” she replied. “Piece by piece, it’s listening more.” — By Jerry Adler. Video produced by Brad Marshland.

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