How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Canceled 'Piolín' show rallied immigrants to march and to become citizens

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama appeared as a guest several times on the popular radio show hosted by Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo (right).

As fans react to the cancellation of Univision's "Piolín por la Mañana" radio show, some are also mourning it as the platform that host Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo often employed to speak out on behalf of immigrants.

Sotelo played a big role in helping draw massive crowds to march in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities during the spring of 2006, during the last major immigration debate in Congress. He rallied listeners, along with other radio personalities, to speak out against a strict enforcement bill that was pending in Congress at the time and demand an immigration overhaul.

"His legacy will always be the crowded streets of Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, and people’s hopes high for change," said Jorge-Mario Cabrera of the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles, an immigrant advocacy organization.

There's been no word from Univision as to why the network chose to cancel the show, or where Sotelo is headed next. Sotelo gave no indication that the show might be canceled when he spoke with KPCC's A Martinez earlier this month about his induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

After the 2006 Senate immigration reform bill failed, Sotelo took a different tack, encouraging listeners to apply for U.S. citizenship if they were eligible, to learn English and engage in civic participation. He took the oath of citizenship himself in 2009.

For immigrant listeners, Sotelo had the ultimate self-made street cred. He arrived in the U.S. illegally as a teenager via Tijuana, attended high school in Santa Ana, and knocked on doors until someone gave him a radio job. He said in one interview that before he received his work permit, he was almost deported once. Fans identified with him, and they listened to what he had to say.

The "Piolín por la Mañana" show itself was more comedy than cause, but it had such reach that President Obama appeared as a guest several times, during which Sotelo would press him on immigration reform and why it wasn't happening. From a 2012 interview with Obama:

"Piolin, I would only have broken my promise if I hadn’t tried. But ultimately, I’m one man," he said when asked if he broke his promise. “You know, we live in a democracy."

The Piolín show had recently been bumped from its number-one spot in L.A. by another Spanish-language morning program. The show was syndicated on 52 affiliate stations across 21 states and reached approximately 3.5 million listeners weekly. 

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