On February 17, 2009, President Obama was interviewed by Piolin. Piolin is a host on a Spanish language morning radio show. He is heard nationally on over 100 radio stations. Piolin, an immigrant himself, has listeners who are able to relate to him. People listen to him at an individual and collective level. This is because Piolin’s show will be tuned in while his listeners are at work, so people laugh together, debate together, and become informed together. When I was in college, my co-workers would always play his show on the radio on our ride from UC Santa Cruz to a middle school in Soledad, an agricultural immigrant/migrant community.
This is the introduction and conversation Pres. Obama and Piolin shared on immigration:
THE PRESIDENT: Hello.
THE PRESIDENT: Who am I speaking with?
THE PRESIDENT: Piolín, my friend, this is President Barack Obama.
PIOLIN: How are you doing? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I am doing good. I promised you that I would be on the show when I was President, and here I am on the show. (Laughter.)
PIOLIN: You promised me that you were going to be in the studio –
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I haven’t gone to Los Angeles yet, but I should get credit for keeping my promise this way.
PIOLIN: Thanks a lot, Mr. President. We have Mr. President Barack Obama with us. And let me tell you this, Mr. President; I’m sure you know, but it’s important to let you know once again, we make a big contribution to our country from all across art, music, labor. And most important a lot of Hispanics are in Iraq defending the United States, even without being American citizen.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
PIOLIN: We need your help.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I’ve said every time I’ve been on the show, Piolín, we’re going to make sure that we begin the process of dealing with the immigration system that’s broken. We’re going to start by really trying to work on how to improve the current system so that people who want to be naturalized, who want to become citizens, like you did, that they are able to do it; that it’s cheaper, that it’s faster, that they have an easier time in terms of sponsoring family members. And then we’ve got to have comprehensive immigration reform. Now, you know, we need to get started working on it now. It’s going to take some time to move that forward, but I’m very committed to making it happen. And we’re going to be convening leadership on this issue so that we can start getting that legislation drawn up over the next several months.
PIOLIN: Mr. President, is there some sort of network we could establish to be in communication regarding the comprehensive immigration reform, and personally what can I do?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, the key thing right now is obviously we’ve got to make sure that all the people who are involved in immigration reform issues, that they sit down together and they start thinking about how we’re going to approach this problem. Politically it’s going to be tough. It’s probably tougher now than it was, partly because of the fact that the economy has gotten worse. So what I’ve got to do is I’ve got to focus on the economy, I’ve got to focus on housing, and make sure that people feel a little bit more secure; at the same time, get the various immigrant rights groups together and have them start providing some advice in terms of what strategies we’re going to pursue in Congress.
PIOLIN: Thats one of the things, Mr. President, I would like to happen. I’m working for media and knowing that our people worked so much. And, you know, they came out from the houses, going to work — scary because they don’t even know if they’re going to be deported. And can we try to establish like a signal, like a network — for example, I like what you did with the financial — financial people, that you set it up, for example — the newspaper from LA, is part of that — those groups of advisors, financial advisors that you put — I like the idea. How can we have kind of like the thing where I can receive information? What do we need to do so we can receive a comprehensive reform?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ve got some wonderful people on my White House staff who are working on this issue on an ongoing basis. And what we’ll do is we’ll make sure that one of those people can appear on your program on a regular basis, giving you information about what we’re doing. And hopefully at some point you’ll be able to come visit us at the White House.
PIOLIN: Any time, Mr. President. And I would like to be there when you sign the comprehensive immigration reform.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Well, thank you so much, Piolín. It’s great to talk to you.
PIOLIN: Mr. President, you know we are close friends and you know that I have your BlackBerry phone number and you have mine. (Laughter.) So keep in touch.
THE PRESIDENT: You know I will. Thank you so much. Tell everybody in the studio I said hello. I had a great time when I visited you, and everybody there was so nice. And you were very nice to my wife, as well, when she was on the program. So thank you so much, Piolín. Take care.
PIOLIN: Take care, Mr. President. You know, you are in our prayers. You have our support, and we want to help in any way we can.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thank you, guys. Bye-bye.
Personally, I am glad to know that President Obama is making an effort to connect himself to many different communities in this country. This is a huge step in the direction of following through with immigration reform. Many people feel there should not even exist a man-made border that has caused deaths and the criminalization on an entire population. I myself recognize the history of colonization and western expansion by the United States of America in combination with the economic exploitation in our countries that pushes our people to migrate. We can not turn back time and give life to those who have died while crossing the border or break off all the hooks of corporate capitalism. But this interview speaks to a commitment represented by both the immigrant community who works and contributes positively and by the President himself in seeking ways to meet progress on the issue of immigration.
My hopes and ideals may differ from whatever policy and reform does occur. But I do believe that the separation of children from their parents is inhumane and that the trauma caused to our community because of deportations must cease. These issues have politicized and united many people who once felt they did not have a voice. I have been witness however, that through our collective demonstrations of May 1st and our continued community organizing we can be victorious in slashing away xenophobia and finding peace at home, at work, on the streets, and in our daily lives. Even though Piolin is one person, he reaches far and wide and does have the ability to represent our Latino community. This is why I believe in the power of media and have chosen to take part in the media, instead of just being the zombie. I am glad that the President will keep a regular update on Piolin’s show through one of his white house staffs’.
Comments are welcome. But not hate. Peace.
Piolin Portrait done by Artist:
Federal Correctional Institution