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. RM

    Why should we have to fix anything in this country for those who don’t belong?

    What about all those people in foreign countries attempting to gain citizenship without connecting landmasses? We put the Jamaicans and Cubans to work for the USCG when caught in boats. Guess we should allow them free passage too? Forget immigration reform, we should fight drugs (unlike California) in Mexico to help safety for their population. We should build factories to help their economy and ours with cheap labor and lower prices for production. Screw China and the high power society, we have a mini China waiting for us. Now only if they were a smarter society.

    May 19, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  2. PaulRaj

    It is surprising how people think deporting illegal citizens as hatred and discrimination. It has nothing to do with discrimination or hatred. It is following the law of this country. I think some of us are missing the word 'illegal'. May be we should just scrap all immigration rules and open all gates and let everyone walk-in and walk-out. There should not be one rule for people who come in legally and another rule for those who don't. It is like a 2-year old asking "My mom robbed someone and will she go to jail? do I have to live without a mom?" – From a 2-year old's perspective it is sad but should we ignore the mistake of her mom?

    May 19, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. Bucephalus

    Who are the idiots who think undocumented workers don't pay taxes? Anyone who buys anything pays sales tax. Anyone who buys gas pays federal transportation taxes. Anyone who works has payroll taxes deducted, unless the employer (not the worker) is in violation of the law. Stop perpetuating this nonsense that undocumented workers don't pay taxes. It simply has no basis in fact.

    To Native Americans, all the rest of us are illegal aliens. To person of Mexican heritage, all other Arizonans are illegal aliens since Arizona was taken by force of arms from Mexico, the sovereign country that controlled it before the Mexican-American War.

    May 19, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  4. Bob

    Wow! She says her mom is illegal which means she has no social security number which means she pays no taxes. You might as well paint the words tax drain on that kids head. That little girl is not outlining the problem she is the problem. Illegals come to this country have children that we make citizens the second they come out of the womb. That little girl is a tax dollar black hole – from her birth at a government funded hospital to her free lunch programs to her free education she is getting via my tax dollars in which her parents pay none. WAKE UP AMERICA!

    May 19, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. rachel

    Well mommy committed a crime. There is a process to get legal, school visa work visa lots of ways to be here legal some people just decide they dont want to bother.

    May 19, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. EqualPolitics4Everyone

    Did you notice how I use this moniker, but my comments are not equal? Funny how my right side of the aisle mentality works....

    May 19, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. Meka

    Best First Lady, EVER!

    May 19, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "So she just moved on? Wow.

    I understand these people want and need a better life, but there has to be a better way than simply having our political leaders turning their heads on illegal activity on a public forum! "

    And there we have it folks. A perfect exemplar of the heartless right wing lunatic fringe. What would you have done, sweetheart? Berate the little 7 year old girl in front of her classmates and tell her that her border-hopping wetback momma needs to be deported...maybe make sure to get her address while you're at it so you can pass it on to INS?

    I understand you people want and need a better life, but there has to be a better way than simply stepping on others and our Constitution and our core principles as a society to reach it.

    May 19, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  9. lavacaw

    I have been accused of being in danger of falling off the left side of the world but this is one of those issues that rescues me! If you broke the law you have to pay the price. We didn't want the Cuban prisoners released here because they broke the law/ We do not have the resources to grant amnesty to millions of lawbreakers. Go home and come back when you can do so legally. You knew you were breaking the law when you came here without papers.

    May 19, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  10. streetsmart

    MOMINTHESOUTH-Dubyas mama and his wife failed as well-with the illegal immigrant issue as well as the mothers and children that died during Katrina.issue. You can go back to FOX NEWS now

    May 19, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. Turnabout is Fair Play

    Dan May 19th, 2010 4:28 pm ET

    If you are in the US illegally, GO HOME and get in line like the others.

    Shame on those who think it's fair for illegals to be able to stay here and NOT pay taxes and take away our jobs. SHAME

    And what jobs would they be taking away from you Dan? Picking berries, tomatoes, and cotton or working in a sweatshop for Walmart and Abercrombie Fitch? You know, jobs like that that "Americans" like you apply for with gusto. You talk out one side of your mouth against so-called illegals (see my post to Laura) but would look the other way and say H3ll NO if these same jobs were presented to you. Such an arrogant Fox Noise hypocrite.

    May 19, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  12. Wisconsinite

    @ Dan who said: "Shame on those who think it's fair for illegals to be able to stay here and NOT pay taxes and take away our jobs. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME"

    Moron! If we give them a path to become legal they WILL PAY TAXES!!! That's the point of AMNESTY!! That's how STUPID you people are!

    May 19, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  13. J.P. need help writing English bro..."there illegal"...I think you meant..."Their Illegal".


    If everyone could just stop being racist. Your making America look bad.

    May 19, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  14. Shermani

    Either does Barry's aunt, or him for that matter. This is beautiful that the messiah's staff didn't "hand select" properly. Maybe we should give this little girl a free house, education, food, car, college, bank account, etc. so that we do not violate any of the ACLU's spot on ideas. This is such a simple solution..............DEPORT ANYONE WITHOUT PAPERS, REGARDLESS OF WHO THEY KNOW, OR ARE RELATED WITH.

    May 19, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Hey "realist", What you never broke the law? I'm sure you always declare all your earnings, drive the speed limit, don't drink and drive and pay for every movie you download.
    The "they broke the law" argument just doesn't cut it.

    May 19, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. Eddie B

    I wonder how a Republican would've answered that question. "Well your mom is here illegally and we want to ship you and her back to wherever she came from."

    May 19, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  17. Law Not In Place

    For all the people that keep stating that we all came here illegally, think again. The law was not in place when our ancestors came to this land. And it was a different time and place. But we now have a law in place on how to come to the US legally. Are you saying if you don't like a law then disregard it. Can you imagine how our society would be if everyone decided not to obey the laws that the didn't like and the government just look the other way. Think people...truly think.

    May 19, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  18. Steve (the real one)

    Mike T May 19th, 2010 4:36 pm ET

    I agree with Nanda, the love that we as a "christian" nation have is just overwhelming.
    Hate to break it to you but Obama said we were NOT a Christian nation! Remember?

    May 19, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  19. Ben

    If the right had its way and got rid of all government, then there'd be no police and courts left to catch all these illegal immigrants and stop them from setting up camp with their Spanish bibles in the right's local church parking lot.

    Seeing that unfold would almost make the anarchy worth it.

    May 19, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  20. Agnes

    If this mother is an illegal living in this country, then she is condoning breaking the laws of this land and by that very act does not deserve to be here. My forebears came here as legal immigrants, the process is open to all willing to follow the law. If you come here illegally you demonstrate a willingness for criminal acts. How about the services this child receives, services that could be going to a legal resident child, the very services that that same USA resident child will not receive because they are being used by the child of the illegal immigrant. While I appreciate the need to treat any child with "kid gloves" it by no means should allow the First Lady to belittle the laws of this land. Illegal is illegal and illegal immigration is a criminal act, period.

    May 19, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  21. The King

    Mommy got no papers?? Put her in an Acme catapult and fire her back to La Cucarachaland. As for the little girl, ship her to a textile mill and let her start earning her keep. I have no sympathy for any of these intruders.

    May 19, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. PauL WIllson

    This is a headache for POTUS . But this an 8 year old right so whats next a satus check for kindergarden ? If something happens to this girl & her family well thats going hurt the right wing haters out there.
    For the record I am not an American but a Canadian. And maybe we will have to think about developing similar laws and expell Americans who come here for medical treatment, and that happens.
    Maybe even close the border , get out of NORAD and NATO.

    May 19, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. max5150

    The only way to stop illegal imigration is to make the US a worse place than were they are coming from. The United States is the land of hope for millions of people around the globe. People who might not know the laws they need to follow. The story dosn't say the child isn't a citizen. If she was born here than it is our responsibilty to educate her.

    May 19, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  24. ChildPlease

    People just mad because in the near future the Minority will becomes the Majority and the Majority will becomes Minority.

    May 19, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. CommonSense

    Bob, if that little "tax drain" was born in the United States, then she's a citizen entitled to the same rights and opportunities as other citizens. That includes education.

    I'm sorry, I don't see the education of our citizens to be a "tax drain" in any sense of the word. Unless, of course, you want to live in a society of the uneducated.

    May 19, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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