WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At 18-years-old, politically-motivated Melba High School senior Samantha Rodriguez is already making her voice heard on a national level.
The Melba teen was selected speak to Idaho lawmakers -- and tell her unique story -- in conjunction with a massive immigration rally in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Rodriguez was one of just four Idahoans selected by representatives of the Idaho Community Action network to to take part in the rally.
The event saw an estimated 20,000 demonstrators descend on the Capitol lawn.
“I feel really, really proud,” Rodriguez told KTVB over the phone while attending the rally. “I honestly didn’t expect to see anything like what I’m seeing right now.”
Rodriguez was tapped after reading a speech about her life at an immigration rally at the Nampa Hispanic Cultural Center last month. Rodriguez' speech described how she was born in the United States, and became a U.S. citizen. Yet her parents came to the United States illegally, were forced to return to Mexico, and eventually came back.
Idaho Community Action Network Organizer Fernando Mejia said Samantha's voice was heard by senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, and Representative Raul Labrador.
"We met with Crapo's office, and then Samantha met with Senator Risch," Mejia said.
Mejia went on to describe the day's events in a postive light, and said they made him hopeful that tangible immigration reform would happen soon.
"This is about family unity," Mejia said. "This is the year we're going to pass immigration reform. This is they year we're going to transcend politics and embrace family unity."
Samantha Rodriguez agrees.
When asked if the heavily-attended rally was evidence of the support necessary to pass immigration reform, Rodgriguez said “With this turnout -- Yes, it’s amazing.”
A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP?
More than 400 buses were scheduled to bring demonstrators to the Capitol Wednesday morning.
Organizers of the rally said the purpose of the demonstration was to urge Congress to find a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who've come to the U.S. illegally.
"We are going to pray, we are going to rally, we are going to protest, we are going to get arrested for civil disobedience. We are not going to give up until we have comprehensive immigration reform," said Kica Matos, an immigration reform advocate from the Center for Community Change.
Farm workers and growers have now reportedly reached a tentative deal providing visas for those who've been here for years.
But not everyone thinks they should be at the front of the line.
"Ten million Americans, no more than a high school degree...they're looking for jobs in those occupations, can't find one, while seven million illegal workers hold those jobs," said Roy Beck, advocate for lowering immigration levels from NumbersUSA.
A group of eight senators working on a compromise for immigration could announce a new bill as early as tomorrow.