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Daisy and the First Lady

Posted by admin On June - 2 - 2010  Print  Email  

Second-grader Puts New Spin on Immigration Issues

The innocence of a child cannot be faulted.

Had Daisy Cuevas known the precarious position she would have forced her parents into she may have asked U.S. first lady Michelle Obama something as mundane as if the white house was really white.

Daisy Cuevas far left questions first lady Michelle Obama on Immigration issue.

Instead the seven-year-old of Peruvian parents jumped on a thorny issue that brought a solemn look to the first lady’s face when she visited the New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md, on May 19, 2010.

The visit carried live on television showed the brave second-grader sitting on the floor with classmates in a semi circle around the first lady. She immediately became a voice for the estimated 12 million immigrants living in the United States illegally — and a source of pride for Peru’s president, who visited Washington on Tuesday June 1, 2010.

When Mrs. Obama asked if anyone else had a question, little Daisy Cuevas’ hand shot into the air. “My mom says that Barack Obama is taking away everybody that doesn’t have papers,” she said.

“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,” Mrs. Obama replied.

Immigrants protest government policies on immigration reform.

“But my mom doesn’t have papers,” Daisy, a U.S. citizen by birth, persisted, hoping in her childish mind to perhaps here the first lady offer some sort of impromptu resolution to her mother’s illegal status.

Waiting in the wings to witness her daughter’s moment with the first lady, her mother was stunned by her query and her face paled. She burst into tears and ran from the room to call her parents in Lima, Peru, then fearful of being deported went into hiding.

Cuevas, thrilled at the idea seeing herself on television withfirst lady could not comprehend the worry on her parents’ face. She had no idea of the fear her undocumented Peruvian parents lived with every day.

“She laughed, she jumped up and down. She was excited,” her maternal grandfather, Genaro Juica, said.

The TV appearance made the pigtailed second-grader a voice of the estimated 12 million immigrants living in the United States illegally — and a source of pride for Peru’s president, who visits Washington today.

The situation is tenuous for immigrants like Cuevas’ mother. She was two months pregnant when she arrived in the U.S. with her carpenter husband. She has since found employment as a maid.

Cuevas’ parents are fearful of U.S. anti-immigration backlash, especially in the light of an Arizona law to take effect in July that gives police the right to demand ID papers of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said it is not pursuing Daisy’s parents. Immigration investigations, it said, “are based on making sure the law is followed and not on a question-and-answer discussion in a classroom.”

Nonetheless, Daisy’s mother asked The Associated Press, which reported on the matter, not to name her or her husband.

And Juica, heeding an attorney’s advice, asked the news agency not to take photographs of him or other relatives in Peru.

Daisy, meanwhile, has become a celebrity in Peru.

“I’m really proud that a young girl of Peruvian origin is highlighting the enormous problem with Latin American immigration in the United States,” President Alan Garcia said, adding that be believed it would be scandalous if her parents were deported.

“Do you know how much President Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama would stand to lose?” he said.

Garcia called the Arizona law a “completely irrational response” to the illegal-immigration question, and said he would express his thoughts on the matter to President Obama during his visit to Washington.

An estimated 1.5 million Peruvians currently live in the U.S. Of those, three in five are either undocumented or in the process of legalizing their status, Peru’s consul-general in Washington, Cesar Augusto Jordan, said.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Belaunde said he considers Daisy a “successful ambassador” for compatriots in similar predicaments.

While Daisy has automatic U.S. citizenship and lives full time with her parents, her 9-year-old sister, July, is not as lucky. July was left behind with her grandparents when her parents moved to the United States to escape poverty.

The two sisters met for the first time last year when Daisy spent a month visiting her grandparents in the working-class San Juan de Lurigancho district of Lima.

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Hi. My name is Susan Gosine-Herrera. I live in Queens, New York. This news blog is my way of highlighting all the interesting things, people and events I come across in this part of New York. If you have an interesting immigrant story or know of one or of an interesting immigrant, I will be happy to feature that story in these pages. Just send an email and I will be in touch. Meanwhile, live like a tourist, enjoy all you can, before you move on.

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