May 19th, 2010
03:51 PM ET
11 years ago

Second grader grills Michelle Obama

Washington (CNN) – First lady Michelle Obama faced a tough policy question Wednesday from an unlikely source - a second-grader.

During a visit to a Washington-area school with Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala, a student concerned about her mother's legal status asked Michelle Obama about her husband's immigration policies.

"My mom said, I think that she says that, Barack Obama is going to take away everybody that doesn't have papers," the young girl told the first lady.

The unscripted moment was sandwiched between examples of Michelle Obama's signature policy initiatives - a lesson on healthy eating and an exercise session - and forced the first lady to walk the fine line of immigration reform policy language.

"Yeah, well, that's something that we have to work on, right? To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right? That's exactly right," she said.

The girl replied, "But, my mom doesn't have any."

"[W]ell we have to work on that, we have to fix that and everybody's got to work together in Congress to make sure that happens. That's right," Obama said before moving to the next question.

Dana Tofig, a spokesman for Montgomery County, Maryland, schools, said the district would not identify the student and does "not ask about the immigration status of our students and their families."

"There was a Supreme Court decision that makes it clear that if there's proof of residency in the county, then we educate the child," he said.

"And we're not going to identify the student or her parents," he said. "We protect the identity of our students."

The exchange happened in a school gymnasium, but immigration took center stage in Washington on Wednesday as President Obama welcomed his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon, to the White House.

Both leaders used the occasion - the fourth time they have met for bilateral talks - to take sharp aim at Arizona's controversial new law meant to crack down on illegal immigrants. Calderon characterized the measure as discriminatory; Obama called it a "misdirected expression of frustration."

Obama also repeated his call for comprehensive immigration reform.

Updated: 8:52 p.m.

Filed under: Immigration • Michelle Obama • Popular Posts
soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. Sue

    My heart broke for that poor little girl....time to get immigration reform done. Enough is enough!

    May 19, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  2. GI Joe

    The girl replied, "But, my mom doesn't have any."

    Must be one of the republican's "cheap labor for corporatons " recruits

    No wonder the republcans don't want to cooperate to fix it.

    May 19, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  3. Debby

    Sad for the kids when they get settled here in the US and then have to be deported. Every parent wants the American dream for their kids to be successful even if they couldn't get it.

    May 19, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  4. Cindy

    Her mom must be dying right now... that little girl just let the world know her mom doesn't have papers...

    Obama, please fix this.

    May 19, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  5. annie s

    Of course, the hard line conservatives won't be moved by the humanity of this – but hopefully, enough of us will to know that these people just like us, wanting the best for themselves and their families. Arizona doesn't have the answer – immigration reform with a path to citizenship is needed now.

    May 19, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. Jared

    Your heart broke? Mine didn't, it's her mothers fault for breaking the law in the first place, she doesn't have papers because she didn't follow the rules. Dear little girl, momma needs to be shipped back to where ever she came from, and you'll have to go too. It's no one's fault but mommy's. No Amnesty.....ever!

    May 19, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Julio

    I hope INS is on its way to that girls house right now! I went through the lengthy process to become a citizen legally to gain the rights that these people are stealing?

    Kick them out!!

    May 19, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  8. amy

    Thank GOD Arizona is taking a stand...illegal immigrants are going to bleed citizens dry...they should try going to war for freedoms like so many other people in this country...if you want to live it, do it right...I'm sick of seeing my tax dollars wasted...

    May 19, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. niun

    fix the borders first . then we can talk about reform.

    May 19, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. E. Holder-Hypocrite

    Calderon characterized the measure as discriminatory; Obama called it a "misdirected expression of frustration."

    What part of breaking the law is so difficult to understand?

    May 19, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. Chris

    We wouldn't need reform if the government enforced the laws we have now. Don't punish the people who came here legally, make those who came here illegally register and go through the paper work of legal entry into this country. We are not welcome in mexico illegally so why should we just let anyone in our country. If they will sidestep this law then why should we believe they will not side step other laws as well.


    May 19, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  12. harry reid

    What Ms obummer shud have said was" My hubby dosn't have papers either!"

    May 19, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  13. Dave

    Michele "Teleprompter too" Obama cannot give a straight answer. We need policy and hopefully we work on your Mom's case to make it for her to become legal.

    May 19, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  14. Rickster

    What a teachable moment this could have been. That kid should have been told that America is a country of laws and that if her mom is here illegally then she broke the law and now that they know about her, yes dear, your mom is going to be escorted to the border and heaved back across the fence from whence she came.

    May 19, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  15. laura

    Are you kidding me? This was a definate set up. Lets play to the liberals and bring a small child into the immigration mix. Why can't people understand they are ILLEGAL!!!! Does anyone know what this means? It means they are breaking the law. The dumbo and dumboette set up this little child. Shame on them.

    May 19, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  16. John

    Time to deport her mother...

    May 19, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  17. Josue Tamarez

    We must make sure that people without documents get them so they can live their American dream. We cannot divide so many families just because they don't have legal documents. Lets get this done Mr. President. You got health care reform done, now get immigration reform. Who cares about what conservatives say?

    May 19, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  18. Jeff in DC

    Awkward! That wasn't a good moment for anybody...

    May 19, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  19. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Poor little girl. If republicans have their way, that little girl's mom will be deported tomorrow.

    May 19, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  20. Turnabout is Fair Play

    My heart goes out to the little sweetie, I really hope the Republicans saw that exchange and that their hearts grew three sizes that day..but I don't hold out any hope at all..God Bless you and your mother little one and God bless our FLOTUS and our president for working and trying so hard to set things right between other countries and the U.S.

    May 19, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  21. Robert

    I am in. Time for immigration reform and start seeing the good side of the American people and also the positive that immigrants bring to this country.

    May 19, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  22. Phil

    Behind every policy, every law, every political soundbite is someone's daughter, son, father or mother who will be affected. So, should we just deport the mother? What about the daughter? What about the family? Not easy questions folks!

    May 19, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. Robert

    Just what the Arizona and the Federal Law already on the books addresses. The illegal who comes her to have an anchor baby. Does anyone really think they give and care at all about the consequences to that child? We as Americans have more concern than that girls Mother. Immigration reform must not include AMNESTY! Let them become citizens by earning it! And who is the employer??????

    May 19, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  24. Miguel

    Well sweety, when mommy decided to break the law in entering this country she spit in the face of all those who did the work to get those "papers."

    May 19, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  25. Tara

    Unscripted, right! I highly doubt this was unscripted. It may sound heartbreaking, but the truth of the matter is there are thousands of illegal immigrants that are costing this country money. If this were a kid in Mexico and her mother was an illegal there, the mother would be facing a federal offence and jail time. Here, we give them free healthcare and food stamps. I don't feel to sorry for the kid, because nothing is really going to happen. Obama has done nothing to stop this, and I doubt he will. All he does is make snarky comments about politicians who do try and confront the issue. Time to make a stand Obama, not another elaborate speech.

    May 19, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
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