President Obama: “Unless You Are a Native American, Your Family Came from Somewhere Else”

President Obama among students in Des Moines, Iowa

President Obama among students in Des Moines, Iowa

Published September 16, 2015

DES MOINES— Even though President Barack Obama is not campaigning for president in 2016, he brought his education message to a high school in Des Moines. Iowa is the state of the first caucus in next year’s presidential election. President Obama held a town hall on college access and affordability.

After his speech, the president opened up the conversation to questions. One young student asked President Obama about funding college for “illegal students with a good GPA.”

Even though he is not a candidate, President Obama was not afraid to address the anti-immigration sentiments that are being spewed by Republican candidates, such as Donald Trump this summer.

Here is the exchange:

“My name is Tanya from North High School.  And my question is, if you legalize college — or free two-year college, is everyone, including illegal students with a good GPA able to get this benefit”?

President Obama’s response:

“… And this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that’s out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are.  (Applause.)

Because unless you are a Native American, your family came from someplace else.  (Applause.) 

And although we are a nation of laws and we want people to follow the law, and we have been working — and I’ve been pushing Congress to make sure that we have strong borders and we are keeping everybody moving through legal processes — don’t pretend that somehow 100 years ago the immigration process was all smooth and strict and — that’s not how it worked.

There are a whole bunch of folks who came here from all over Europe and all throughout Asia and all throughout Central America and all — and certainly who came from Africa, who it wasn’t some orderly process where all the rules applied and everything was strict, and I came the right way.  That’s not how it worked.

So the notion that now, suddenly, that one generation or two generations, or even four or five generations removed, that suddenly we are treating new immigrants as if they’re the problem, when your grandparents were treated like the problem, or your great-grandparents were treated like the problem, or were considered somehow unworthy or uneducated or unwashed — no.  That’s not who we are.  It’s not who we are.”

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