Julie Jacobson / AP
Michelle Obama hugs campaign volunteer Teresa Crawford before speaking to a room full of volunteers, June 19, in Las Vegas.
HENDERSON, Nev. --- Defending the White House's controversial decision to stop deportations of some children of illegal immigrants, first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday called the measure "an important step" but not "a permanent solution" and vowed that her husband will keep fighting `n for full Congressional embrace of the DREAM Act.
"Just last week this administration announced new measures to lift the shadow of deportation from many of these young people who came here as children and were raised as Americans," she told a rally of about 1,000 supporters in the Las Vegas area, where more than a quarter of the population is of Hispanic origin. "But while this is an important step, it is not a permanent solution. It is not. So Barack is going to keep fighting to get Congress to give these young people a real pathway to citizenship."
"That's the vision that this president has," she added.
On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will no longer deport young illegal immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16, have no criminal records, and who have pursued an education. Those who meet the requirements can defer deportation proceedings for two years - subject to renewal - and can apply for work permits.
The mention of the new policy was somewhat out of the ordinary for Mrs. Obama, who rarely strays from her stump speech to comment on current events. Her reference to the DHS policy and to the similarly-structured legislative DREAM Act won cheers from the crowd in Henderson, Nev.
In her remarks, the first lady also offered a fierce defense of the White House's economic policies, particularly the foreclosure reforms the president announced in Nevada last year.
She encouraged supporters to remind friends and neighbors of those reforms, saying that as a result "families across the state have been able to refinance their mortgages and keep their homes and keep more money in their pockets each month."
With a nod to her oft-mentioned father, whom she often says took great pride in paying his bills on time, Obama urged backers to evangelize within their communities about the economic gains of the past years. "While we still have a long way to go, we still have more work to do to rebuild our economy, let them know that today millions of people are collecting a paycheck again," she said. "Millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again thanks to your president.
Before arriving at the sweltering conference center, the first lady stopped at Sunrise Coffee in Las Vegas. Purchasing two small iced teas - with the sweetener "on the side" - Mrs. Obama joked with the cashier about the crush of press that hung on her every move.
"I don't know what they'll do," she said with a smile when the young cashier eyed the journalists and worried aloud that they would "mob" both of them. "I can't speak for them."
Mrs. Obama continues her western campaign swing tomorrow with two events in Colorado.