OSKALOOSA, Iowa—Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann waded into a sensitive area of immigration policy Saturday during a somewhat charged exchange at a campaign stop in southeast Iowa.
Bachmann entered an extended exchange with a college student (and Democrat) over how to handle the immigrants who are brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
After finishing a speech that focused in part on repealing the federal health care law and overhauling the tax code, Bachmann opened the floor to questions from the 100 or so people gathered at Smokey Row restaurant.
A 19 year-old college student, identifying himself as Latino, asked what Bachmann would “do to” the children of illegal immigrants.
Bachmann responded that she is “not doing anything to them,” and described why she is against the federal government rewarding citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.
“Their parents are the ones who brought them here,” Bachmann said.
"They did not have the legal right to come to the United States," Bachmann added, of the parents. "We do not owe people who broke our laws to come into the country. We don’t owe them anything.”
Bachmann went on to draw a parallel to her own family’s journey to the United States more than 150 years ago.
"I dare say that probably every single person in this room descends from immigrants,” Bachmann said.
“I did—my immigrant family came here in the 1850s, and they came into the United States legally. They received zero benefits.”
The exchange was somewhat charged, because the student, Roy Aguillon, cast the question in personal terms.
“These guys were my friends," Aguillon said. "They are the guys who sit next to me in class, who I see in Walmart.”
Aguillon, who is from San Antonio and is a student at nearby William Penn University, is a second-generation American citizen and is active in local politics—serving as the vice president of the College & Young Democrats of Iowa.
In an interview with NBC News, Aguillon said he didn't intend to draw Bachmann into a discussion about the DREAM Act—legislation which would offer benefits, including citizenship, to the children of illegal immigrants.
Instead, he says, he was looking for a practical answer for young illegals, given Bachmann's hard line position.
“These guys don’t know anything else," Aguillon said during his interview with NBC. "What are you going to do, send them back to Mexico? The place is basically in the middle of a drug war.”
Aguillon says he didn’t attend the event to raise trouble, and despite his leadership role in the Iowa College Democrats, he would consider voting Republican in 2012.
He complains that President Obama abandoned the DREAM Act, and hasn’t been hard enough on Wall Street. He says, of Obama: “He’s not enough of a fighter to be my president right now.”
Despite the personal tone of their exchange, Aguillon and Bachmann chatted following the event, and they posed for pictures together afterward, along with Aguillon's girlfriend.
As the campaign team left the restaurant, Iowa state co-chair Brad Zaun, a state senator from Urbandale, pulled him aside.
“Thanks for your honesty,” Zaun said.