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. David

    Sorry, but I grew up on the Texas/Mexico border, and moved back after school. The public schools and hospitals here are all failing because they have to fund the education and medical treatment of aliens. No, not children who were born here by illegal immigrants; flat out Mexican citizens going to our schools and receiving free healthcare in our hospitals. I don't care if Mexican citizens want to come here and work, but we can't allow them to milk the system of benefits while the American educational and medical establishment breaks under the weight of it all.

    May 19, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. Sean

    Fix it? Yes. Fix it through the methods Arizona has adopted? DEFINITELY NO!

    May 19, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "We cant afford anymore hand outs to anybody."

    But we can afford a massive rodeo roundup of 12-20 million illegal immigrants and the costs associated with 12-20 million deportation processes...oh, and building a giant Berlin-style wall along the Rio? You guys truly are giant flaming trisomes.

    May 19, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  4. stacie

    Enough! This girl's family pays taxes. They paid taxes when the bought the clothes she is wearing! They paid her school supply fees. They most likely pay property taxes. They may even pay federal and state income taxes. Please note that there are illegal immigrants from many different countries who own homes, work jobs, and buy products here.

    I am glad this girl is getting a good education. She seems worried about her mom, but she is brave, articulate and looks well cared for. I hope she has a very bright future.

    I've heard fried brag about their grandparents who hid in ships coming from Europe, came here illegally and made a new life for themselves. They tell it as an American Dream story. Geez people!

    May 19, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. Frustrated with American People

    It is sad to see such actions occur but it is what it is...If there are legal by all means welcome.....If they are illegal then I am sorry leave the country. It's a choice they made upon entering the country illegally and now that they are be called on their status it Wrong...come on.....ILLEGALS GET NO SYMPATHY FROM ME

    May 19, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  6. J.P.



    First of all amnesty would force undocumented immigrants to pay a fine, so the country would actually be making money.

    Secondly the prisons in this country would love to hold any prisoners because; it's like a schools, they make money based on how many bodies are in the institutions.

    May 19, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  7. Dave

    I see all of the kick them out crowd had nothing to say to those that spoke of how our ancestors stole this country from the natives that lived here. How we slaughtered millions of them (sounds like genocide) and put the rest on reservations and kept them down as second class citizens. It must be that they think our forefathers were right for what they did. I am born and raised here as were my parents and their parents. I am not proud of some of our history. This is suppose to be the most welcoming country in the world. This kick them out of my country crowd should look at history, maybe they would want to make a change for the better. Then again maybe they want to be like our founders and just kill those that are not like them.

    May 19, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  8. johnnyc

    "[the constitution] also pre-empts AZ's nonsense"

    Which is why the law was promptly overturned by the supreme court shortly after its passage Sniffit. Maybe in your world but not in ours, if your argument is so ironclad, then why hasn't the federal government done anything but "carefully review" the law? Why haven't they declared it constitutional?

    You're a funny guy/gal, you must think you're a lawyer or something

    May 19, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  9. You gotta be kidding

    If you honestly believe that this question was not planted, I have a bridge in San Francisco to sell you. CNN you suck for publishing this drivel. Why not report on the illegals who commit violent crimes every day. There was one 47 year old married father of four arrested for breaking into homes and fondling little girls. I suggest Michelle (I admit my husband was born in Kenya) Obama let that guy's kids sleep over in the White House.

    May 19, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  10. Chatham

    We are talking about what? A second grade school child who must be all of 7 years old. Oh sure, she has a terrific grasp of the complexities of immigration law and all that goes along with it. Anyone stop to think that she was scared and thought that everyone needed to have “papers” and her mother didn’t have any for the same reason that most of us don’t. We were born here. I don’t have any”papers” I carry with me do you?
    Oh wait; I don’t have any because I was born in New Jersey, Yeah that must be it.
    But if a law was broken then we must find out for certain before passing judgment.
    When did we all start to hate each other so much?

    May 19, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  11. citizenofearth

    So here's the real issue with our immigration mess – fairness.

    Why should countries that happen to adjoin our borders get all of the opportunity?

    There are millions of people all over the world that are dying to get into the US, but they can't walk in, so they have to use official procedures (visas, green cards, apply for citizenship) and these are very limited in numbers.

    So while tens of millions of people from, Africa, Asia and Europe wait (and often perish) patiently in line, Mexican citizens continue to stream-in and take almost all available opportunities to immigrate to the US.

    If we as a nation want to be open and fair, we need to decide how many millions of immigrants we can welcome each year, and then ration those slots fairly to all of the world. We have got to stop letting Mexico cheat everyone else out of their fair share.

    May 19, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  12. Venus

    Clearly immigration reform is needed for the sake of Americans who demand it, and Undocumented workers who also need protection.

    Americans have a very short memory. When cheap labor was needed, the borders were relaxed. When fewer jobs were available, we engaged in repatriation efforts. And even now, big business beckons undocumented workers: "if you can get here, we'll hire you." It's always been a mixed message for which America is in great part responsible. This pattern is documented in history books like "Occupied America."

    The discourse needs to move beyond where it's at right now which is counterproductive. Where are our scholars and policy makers? We need solutions that people discuss in a rational, humane, and FAIR manner.

    America seems to be imploding; what's happening to us? The undocumented worker issue is just a symptom of something else that is going terribly wrong in this country. We talk and act like wild animals. It's scary.

    May 19, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  13. David in Houston

    J.P. Wrote: need help writing English bro..."there illegal"...I think you meant..."Their Illegal".
    ____________________ could use some help writing English as well, bro. "Their Illegal"...Ithink you meant..."They're illegal".

    Glass houses, my friend.

    May 19, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  14. Bob

    What I don't understand is all the idiots here sayign these people are payig taxes – yes they are probably payign sales tax, property taxes (if they own), ect. but they are not paying federal income taxes as they don't have a SS card or number to attach this tax to. With this said this is semi fine for the states but awful for federal govt. as most social welfare programs these people are pulling from comes from the federal govt. And we wonder why we are broke!

    May 19, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  15. Stetson McWinchester


    When did I start living and voting in Nazi America?

    May 19, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  16. Natural Citizen

    The reason so many of us "Natural Citizen's" are angry with the ILLEGAL Imigration is like myself there are many others who get up everyday and go to work to struggle to support our families and pay taxes, while many of my neighbors who are not even legal imigrants stay home all day. Their rent is paid by section 8, their utilities are paid by CTI, their food is bought with food stamps and the cash benefits they recieve are used to put gas in their Navigator and supply the mountains of Corona cases now sitting in the back yard piling up near the trash bins, that they never take out!

    Yet, my children would like to know when we can eat meat with the mac n cheese they live on because after paying rent and bills there is not enough left for "extra" food. And my old and disabled parents who were also born here, my father even fought in the Korean war, are told constintly they do not qualify for any assistance.

    WHY does the ILLEGAL Imigrant qualify, while those that have contributed their whole lifes are left to suffer! That is why so many are angry with this issue.

    May 19, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  17. Bridgett

    Illegal is just what it is, we are sending a message that some crime is okay and while other crime is not okay. There should be a middle of the road on this. If someone is here in the USA without proper papers they should be escorted back to there home land.

    Breaking the law by allowing illegals to be here is crazy. Illegals are not paying their fair share. Something need to be done about this.

    May 19, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "Hate to break it to you but Obama said we were NOT a Christian nation! Remember?"

    OH NOES!!!! Heavens forfend!!! It must be because he's a Kanyan born muslim manchurian plant sneaked into Hawaii as part of a massive brown-people conspiracy to raise a child in the US, give it the best education possible, make sure it performs outstandingly, earns its way into Harvard, becomes the President of the Law Review of th etop law school in teh country, becomes a state senator by VOTE, becomes a US senator by VOTE, and eventually wins the hearts and minds of the general populace and becomes President of the US by VOTE all so he can sell us out to brown people around the world, right? Newsflash: Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Washington, Hawthorne, et al., all said we're not a krischun nashun, genius. But hey, history and facts are over-rated, nay?

    May 19, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  19. Matt: Honestly

    So much hate. It is so sad.

    May 19, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  20. Jennifer

    Hey, J.P.: I think you actually mean "they're" illegal, not their (or there). It's a contraction for "they are."

    Maybe you & gt could take an English class together 🙂

    Oh, and it should be "you're" making America look bad, not "your."

    Hysterical 🙂

    May 19, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  21. Lana

    Wow! This makes me really mad. Why did Mrs Obama said: we are the nation of laws, and if you are illigally here we will deport you you. That littlle illigal should not have been born here.

    May 19, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  22. Captain Awesome

    Doesn't the Secret Service screen people for awkward moments like these? Or did they fail to do their job? I wouldn't put it past the Urkel administration to stage something like this to create sympathy toward amnesty for illegals. My heart goes out to this little girl and her situation. Americans are the most generous people in the world, but how much are we expected to give? If you travel anywhere around the world, you are expected to declare yourself before entering any country. What's wrong with asking the same here in the U.S.? Has anyone looked at Mexico's immigration policies? Before 2009, if you were caught being in Mexico illegally, you were subject to fines and possibly imprisonment for up to two years!! I'm Hispanic, from the Texas Mexico border, and I approve this message.

    May 19, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. James

    Mexico did not receive its independence until 1810....don't think its citizens have the right to be in this country without adhering to our laws.

    May 19, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  24. Turnabout is Fair Play

    harry reid May 19th, 2010 4:30 pm ET

    The coment below only proves that you are of limited intelligence. But you already knew that, didn't you?

    "Turnabout is Fair Play May 19th, 2010 4:21 pm ET

    he should have asked to see SENATOR McCain's papers, atleast PRESIDENT Obama was born on U.S. soil, not on a floating piece of metal with water under far away from American soil. I don't care if being born on a U.S. ship constitutes being born in America, Obama's more American-born than McCain in my book."

    Hey GENIUS, If I was of limited intelligence, I wouldn't know it now would I..God the ignorant stupidity of some people is ASTOUNDING.

    May 19, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. Carmelle

    Why are the republicans blocking this President from securing the border?

    You want to secure the border only...but what about the immigrants that are already in???

    So you can't just close the border and not pass comprehensive immigration reform!


    May 19, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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