Millions of Spanish speakers across the country listen to Southland-based Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo’s morning radio show. Monday listeners heard President Barack Obama answer Piolin’s questions during a 21-minute interview.
Minutes before the interview with President Obama, Piolin and his morning crew were up to their usual on-air mix of potty humor and sexual innuendo. For the commander-in-chief’s visit, Piolin entirely switched his language and mood. "Thank you for coming Mr. President," Piolin said. "It is great to be here Piolin," replied Obama.
The recorded introduction mixed musical fanfare with selections of campaign speeches. Even the president chuckled.
Four years ago, Piolin successfully urged thousands of listeners to push for legalization for millions of undocumented people. Piolin asked his first question. "I’m going to give you options, multiple choice. Are you ready?" Obama replied he was. "A, immigration reform. B, immigration reform. C, immigration reform. D, all of the above," Piolin said. Obama selected D.
Piolin said many Hispanics are disappointed with Obama for failing to pass immigration reform. President Obama replied that he shares that frustration. "In the United States Senate over the last two years, many Republicans who used to support comprehensive immigration reform, like John McCain, decided not to support it," the president said.
That’s caused the legislation to die on the vine, he said, because bills need a super majority for approval in the U.S. Senate. Obama asked listeners to vote for Democrats in next week’s elections, or to urge Republican candidates to support immigration reform.
Piolin replied that Obama was able to marshal that majority for his health care reform. "But how can you ask for the vote now, if like, most of my listeners, that's what they see, that you haven’t worked that hard to make the comprehensive immigration reform now," Piolin said.
"Piolin, I completely disagree with you on this. With all due respect, even though I’m in your studio. The notion that we haven’t worked that hard is just not true," the president replied.
The interview with Obama aired in the critical week before the end of a particularly rough-and-tumble election cycle. The president repeated his call for Spanish-speaking voters to turn out and vote for Democrats.
Piolin asked about deportations. "Under your administration, Mr. President, almost half a million immigrants have been deported, more than any other president. I want to be clear that I’m talking about immigrant families that are hard working, are learning language, the English, and are helping our economy. What can your administration do to stop deportations now," Piolin said.
Obama answered that his administration’s focus now is on deporting illegal immigrants who’ve committed violent crimes. Voting for Democratic candidates, he added, will help change the laws to ensure that hard-working illegal immigrants aren’t caught in the deportation net.
Piolin thanked President Obama and switched to Spanish as Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos joined him to summarize the interview. It’s unclear how many people in Piolin’s vast radio audience stayed tuned in to hear the president’s remarks in English. Piolin and the president likely figured that even if it’s a small portion, that’ll go a long way on November 2.