DREAMer Takes Michelle Obama Off-Script

Lauren White/Wilbur Cross Proclamation PhotoAn immigrant-rights activist crashed Michelle Obama’s party for Dan Malloy in New Haven Thursday—and ended up impressed with how the First Lady responded.

The interruption took place at a jam-packed get-out-the-get-out-the-vote campaign rally at Wilbur Cross High School. Obama and all the state’s leading Democrats urged the over 2,000 faithful present—who can already be counted on to get out their own vote next Tuesday—to spend the next four days convincing other New Haveners to vote for Democratic Gov. Malloy in his too-close-to-call rematch with Republican challenger Tom Foley.

Obama fans who scored the hottest ticket in town had lined up since the morning up the block from the school to try to get the best standing spot possible.

Tashi Sanchez-Llaury also scored a ticket. She didn’t come to cheer on the First Lady. Instead, standing with fellow activist and immigrant Maria Praeli, she interrupted Obama’s speech to call out:

“I am here with the mother of a DREAMer. She deserves administrative relief now to stay with her family.”

(Note: That may not be the precise quote—it was hard to hear every word in the hubbub. Sanchez-Llaury afterwards said that’s what she said.)

The crowd started to chant “Four More Years!” and otherwise drown Sanchez-Llaury out.

But Obama urged them to let her speak.

“I hear you sweetie,” Obama told Sanchez-Llaury. “I will wait and let you finish, baby. I hear every word you’re saying.”

DREAMers are supporters of federal and state versions of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act. In 2011 Gov. Malloy came to Wilbur Cross High School to sign the Connecticut DREAM Act, which allows children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at Connecticut colleges and universities, as long as they have spent four years in—and graduated from—a Connecticut high school. On Thursday, Sanchez-Llaury’s group was demonstrating to urge President Obama to include parents of undocumented children in an administrative relief decision he has promised to issue after the Nov. 4 elections allowing some immigrants to remain legally in the country.

After Sanchez-Llaury finished speaking out at Thursday’s rally, Obama told the crowd, “New Haven, you guys are all fired up! You guys want this to be a participation rally!”

“There are many issues of passion here,” Obama said. “That’s why elections are important. You’re here because you believe when you’re working your heart out, working 40 to 50 hours a week at your jobs, you should be able to pay your bills! ...

“Everyone has an issue that is near and dear to them. I know that when you kiss your kids good-bye—when you send them off—you want to make sure you send them to good schools with good teachers.”

Later in her speech, Obama included families of “DREAMers” in a litany of causes at stake in this election.

Paul Bass PhotoReturning after the event to a protest spot across Mitchell Drive from the high school’s entrance, Sanchez-Llaury gave the First Lady props—for her position on immigration, and for her handling of the speak-out.

“The tone of the room kind of changed. Her speech changed a little bit to include the topic of DREAMers,” said Sanchez-Llaury, who grew up in Peru and is in the U.S. legally under federal “deferred action for childhood arrivals,”

“Amongst what I could hear, I know that she’s very supportive.”

Sanchez-Llaury said she and Praeli didn’t show up “to heckle her or to attack her in any way. ... The point was to get her to be able to hear us out. There are mothers just like her who would suffer from being separated.”

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posted by: Theodora on October 30, 2014  9:09pm

Yes, juvenile “look-at-me” stunts are sure to persuade people to your side. Little update, the world is not revolving around you.

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on October 31, 2014  8:30am

I don’t see her “stunt” as juvenile it’s actually quite brilliant. it required zero money and minimal effort to stop the First Lady of the United States to pause and listen to her grievance, impact what she said in her speech, and garner media attention. It’s the very essence of grassroots political action.

posted by: wendy1 on October 31, 2014  9:53am

God bless these dreamers.  We are ALL immigrants.  Actually I consider immigrants a useless word.  I believe in open borders.  If it were not for our southern hemisphere neighbors, we would not have a food supply in this country.  I have worked on a farm!!

I am more afraid of local bigots and idiots than I am of Ebola.

posted by: Theodora on October 31, 2014  9:58am

You are suggesting that her rude behavior generated support? LOL

posted by: Hmmm... on October 31, 2014  11:37am

Michelle Obama for President!!! I LOVE that lady!

Theodora… Yes. That’s exactly what we’re saying. What you call ‘rude’ and ‘juvenile is how change gets started. And like it or not it worked. She got the FLOTUS’ attention. She got her to change her speech. She got everybody in the place to stop and listen. She got an article in the news (I heard this on WNPR this morning so it got out to millions of folks.) She even got YOU talking about it. Sounds like success to me.