First Lady’s Box at State of the Union Address and the Model Immigrant Narrative

Guest List for the First Lady's box at the State of the Union Address included an auto worker, a mayor, and a teacher. But when it came to immigrants only extraordinary geniuses made the cut.

By Jorge Rivas Jan 25, 2012

"An auto worker, a mayor, and a teacher–find out who else is sitting with the First Lady tonight at the #SOTU," First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted hours before Tuesday’s State of the Union.

Turns out a few immigrants sat next to the First Lady including a software engineer, a physicist and a lawyer.

"Being proud of our contributions as immigrants is important, but putting highly-skilled workers on a pedestal reinforces the thinking that some immigrants are better and more worthy than others. That’s dehumanizing," said Mónica Novoa, coordinator of’s Drop the I-Word campaign which is seeking to get the media to stop using the pejorative "illegals" and related terms to describe undocumented immigrants.

"Framing that heavily-favors merit-based immigration reform for highly skilled workers takes us away from solutions that are about family reunification for all and ending the shattering of families."

Below is a brief bio of the First Lady’s guest this evening:

Mike Krieger is the co-founder of Instagram, the fastest growing social mobile startup in the U.S. today, with over 15 million registered users. Mike was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and moved to California in 2004 to attend Stanford University, where he studied computer science and cognitive science. After graduation, Mr. Krieger worked for a year on his student F-1 visa, later applying for and receiving an H-1B visa as a high-skill worker. Mr. Krieger wants to permanently stay in the U.S. and has applied for a green card.

Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita is founder, president and chief executive officer of Quality Electrodynamics (QED), in Cleveland, Ohio. Coming to America from Japan in 1988 and after receiving his Ph.D. in physics from Case Western Reserve University in 1998, Dr. Fujita chose to continue his professional training in America. In 2006 he started his own company, QED, which is a developer and manufacturer of highly proprietary state-of-the-art MRI radiofrequency antennas.

Juan Jose Redín was born in Ixtapan de la Sal, Mexico before coming with his mother and younger sister to the United States at the age of 10. After enduring many challenges throughout his journey to achieve his dream of higher education. Juan benefited from California’s Assembly Bill 540 and was able to enroll, and excel, in his studies at UCLA. He received both his undergraduate (with honors) and law degrees from UCLA. Now a US citizen and a practicing attorney, Juan is as passionate as ever about ensuring educational access to all.