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. The First Lade sets bad example

    The First Lady is setting a bad example She heard first hand of a crime – the illegal mother – and did nothing, when the wife of the President so publicly implicity approves of an illegal, our immigration laws mean nothing to anyone - this is a BAD example for the first Lady to set very bad But then again Obama's aunt was ordered deported 6 years ago and instead lived in subsidized housing in Boston all this time

    May 19, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. JeffO

    This girl should be asking her mom why she thinks its OK to break the law?

    May 19, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  3. Frank Gim

    @mae, you are worse then the racists in this thread. I am in the top 1% and I have stolen nothing from you or anyone else. I built a business and I employ many people. I don't feed off of the government and I pay my taxes. Oh, and I started out as poor as an illegal immigrant, because my mother was one too! The only positive to your line of thinking I guess, is that it will curb illegal immigration by killing of the American dream. I am sorry that you may not have achieved the American dream yet, but work hard enough and take a ton some risk and you too can create jobs for people and pay lots of taxes to support others like I do.

    May 19, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. REG in AZ

    It is an issue of considerable concern but extremes will never be the answer. Some may want to mine the border after we complete the fence, then we could change the name of Nogales to Berlin. Others may just want to completely open the border and then just fight in the streets. We all want it resolved but politicians jumping around like they are barefoot on a hot tin roof is neither credible nor lastingly effective. Where were they last year and before that, and why can't they effectively enforce the laws we have? Look around at our other borders and at other countries, if people want to get in they will and if they are really threats then they need to be identified and legally dealt with in the communities. To ever be totally effective we have to stop the gain to be had from illegally entering; using the significant effort and money to enforce our laws against drugs and against hiring illegals. Then we have to equitably address the issue of those who are already here. Too much posturing is going on for political effect and it will just have no real or lasting benefit.

    May 19, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. Michael


    START with the DECENDENTS of the MAYFLOWER!!!

    May 19, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. randy

    HOw is reform going to fix this? her parents obviously broke the law, and now us tax payers are educating their child (ren)...

    call the INS asap, so they can do it properly the way my grandparents did!

    that is after all the AMERICAN way!

    May 19, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. yg

    "White folks never got papers when it was just Indians here. In fact, Mexicans were here b4 white folks too. Blacks were forced over here. Indians, Mexicans and Blacks should be asking White folks for their papers". I completely agree! that is why their position is so wrong!

    May 19, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. halfmn

    those for amnesty – you pay for it ! are you donating your money and time to these folks .. finding them jobs, helping them along their way. no ? how come ? oh yeah, you want me to do it !

    May 19, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "It also means that her child is attending a school that is already strained financially & is being made worse by the fact that Mom is not contributing to the budget."

    If the kid was born here and is therefore a "natural born citizen," she has every right to that public education. Suck it up. You guys are just trying to carry a cross and burn it too.

    May 19, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  10. Justin

    Even a second grader is smart enough to know that being an illegal
    is against the law. Support SB1070

    May 19, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  11. Fed up

    Thank you Republican President Ronald Regan for your 1986 Amnesty Law.

    If only you were here today, to see the mess you left behind.

    Now, a Democrat has to find a graceful way to clean this all up.

    My vote is for changing the law, so that it reads:

    Your are of the same citizenship as your parents until you are of legal age. If your parents are are you, little ms. second grader.

    May 19, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  12. Wisconsinite

    @Jared (and all of the Rabid Right who are just like him)

    Do you HAVE a soul???? I suppose you are one of the ones who like to refer to themselves as "Christians", right? Must be nice to be able to go through life offering simplistic answers to complex problems! But guess what? That just means you're simple-minded!

    May 19, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. Kate

    I love how everyone forgets that this nation of ours was formed by immigrants. The Mayflower immigrants crossing from religious persecution to the Irish to escape famine. We are supposed to be a nation of tolerance and caring. I understand that along the borders that there is a problem with drug warfare, however the UNITED STATES is the country of opportunity and if there is a person trying to make a better life for themselves they should be allowed too. Many of the immigrants are doing jobs that no one else wants; if you need a job stop complain get off your butt and look for a job, even if it is a job that you do not want to do.

    May 19, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. An American

    Felling sorry for this girl and her mother, protesting the actions that the State of AZ has taken, is nothing more full support of illegal immigration, has this country gone crazy or just moving in a backward fashion? The politically correct are running the show in this country and it is making it a third world nation. For anyone that lives along a border state, they know full well how bad the problem has become, instead of the few illegals in your area, there are tens of thousands down here. How about this idea, for all of those who support illegal immigration, we should send at least 5 illegals to live in your home, with no help or financial aid, so that the tax payers in this country get a break. You would change your views about this problem, once it effects you directly.

    May 19, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. Jen

    That girl needs to understand that it's not the country's fault that her mom may be deported. If she had tried to get in the country legally this wouldn't have been an issue. I feel for the girl, but it's her mothers fault.

    May 19, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  16. sick&tired

    great. her illegal daughter is receiving a free education thanks to all of us legal citizens

    May 19, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. JeffO


    There's sufficient proof the indians weren't native either.

    May 19, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  18. Dave

    The federal government must act, and follow its own laws. Right now, it is criticizing Arizona for their desire to enforce a FEDERAL law. In addition, people are distorting the law by saying it promotes racial discrimination. This is prohibited. In addition, some of the critics have not even read the bill! 70% in Arizona support the law. 60% around the US support it as well. It is time for the politicians to listen to the people. And, it is time for the media to start reporting the news (rather than trying to shape public opinion)!

    May 19, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. stacie

    Very well put sniffit – You can't carry your cross and burn it, too!

    May 19, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  20. J.P.

    Undocumented folks do pay state and federal taxes. Its funny we'll take their money, but not allow them the opportunity to become residents.

    Immigrants can't be sent home. This is their home. This is their country. Remember the first person to die in the War against terror in Afganistan in 2002 was a Gautemalan immigrant, who joined the military to become a proud U.S. citizen.

    The best thing about this country are the people, and the worst thing about this country are the people.

    We need to finally become Enlightened.

    May 19, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  21. Wisconsinite

    It's obvious to me from reading some of the hate-filled comments here that Right Wing Extremists are soul-less and heartless!

    May 19, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  22. Enough is enough alright!


    I'm not saying that she doens't have a right to a publicly funded education. I'm saying that her mom isn't contributing to the fund.

    There are people in our society who have no children who are required by law to pay taxes to support publicly funded education. I'm just saying that I think that those who actually *have* children attending those schools should also be required to pay taxes.

    That's not too much to ask, is it?

    May 19, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  23. streetsmart

    WHEREYOUR PAPERSTOO-its true we never showed our papers to the native Americans, we werent asked to, it wasnt part of their laws. Anyways we took over the country by force and made new laws, perhaps that is what you should do rather than whine for your citizenship, just take us over. African Americans were kidnapped so they dont need any papers and anyways reparations have been made to them. If we were here before the African Americans why do we need to show them our papers when it was our country before theirs? OH SNAP! Now I get it! You dont know what Im talking about because you never studied US history in order to get citizenship papers into this country. You"ll obey our laws just like the white black Mexican, Asian, Hindu immigrants who have come to this country illegally or face the consequences just like anyone else that commits a crime in this country. Punk

    May 19, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "My vote is for changing the law, so that it reads:"

    Too bad that pesky Constitution automatically makes you a citizen if you're born here.

    It also pre-empts AZ's nonsense, which is clearly just a political ploy for mid-term year. After all, what self-respecting racist wouldn't automatically assume that a brown president would be soft on illegal immigration of other brown people?

    May 19, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  25. realist

    okay if you break the law your a criminal .....we cant pick and choose whats popular and whats not ..if my parents did something illegal they get arrested why is this different .. My buddies who are from another country are doing the right thing by applying for citizenship and going through the right channels to get it ..They are working 2 jobs and PAYING TAXES to get there citizenship... SO DO THE RIGHT THING AND EARN YOUR CITIZENSHIP ...This is a slap in the face.

    May 19, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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